Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Judge Not - A Reflection on Interfering in the Lives of Others

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think yours is the only path.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Yesterday afternoon I was talking to someone who’s struggling with her conscience about not being able to help a friend in need. After we talked for a while, my friend explained some of the problems her friend is having, and asked what I would do in her place if, like her, I couldn’t afford to give the friend financial support. After helping this lady on several occasions in the past, she is unable to help her with the current crisis, and she feels as if she is abandoning her friend to an unkind destiny.

My first question to her was about faith. The majority of us live our lives without ever even figuring out our own purpose on earth; could we possibly be aware of the purpose others came to fulfill? One of the greatest lessons most spiritual paths teach us is to not judge, but I believe that through time and multiple translations of sacred texts, the main meaning of that lesson has been lost, or in the least, greatly changed.

Not judging others doesn’t only mean that we shouldn’t judge their actions against our scale of right and wrong, but rather, it also means that we shouldn’t judge their potential, or their need to be living a specific reality. The people we so badly wish to help might have the means to help themselves, if empowered enough by the unfolding of events; by denying them the chance of standing on their own, we also deprive them of the ability to discover their own strengths, and we shield them from the reality of their own poor choices, the awareness of which is fundamental to move past certain blocks. Each of us has a reservoir of creative energy, which often remains locked up until survival kicks in.

While it is hard to watch a friend go through hard times, it is important to remember that each of us have a different destiny to fulfill. We may have come to learn a lesson of patience, while our friend is instead here to learn about faith; as much as we would love to make everyone’s life better, by interfering with the process we are also slowing the course of their learning – if they don’t learn one way, since we are meddling with things, something even more challenging might come their way to finally open their eyes.

We should remain compassionate and understanding of the fact that we can’t judge the circumstances of others until we have filled their shoes, as things always look different from the outside looking in, but if we are unable to help, it may very well be a sign that we need to leave things alone. We can offer emotional support, and let our friends know we care about them; if we can relieve their hardship temporarily without passing judgment, and give them a chance to get on their feet, we should be ready and honored to do so, but in no way, shape or form, should we feel guilty for not walking their paths for them or for not having the means to help.

Allowing others to live their own destinies can be an uncomfortable experience, partly because it forces us to relinquish the control we have over people and things around us, which is a rarely acknowledged part of our security blanket. That’s when faith comes in – in the greater scheme of things, there are no wrong paths; there are just paths that aren’t right for us and our purpose. The roads others walk might appear wrong in our judgment of things, but they might be exactly what their souls need in order to evolve.

We are the captains of our own ships, but when it comes to the route of other vessels, we must trust in the fact that somewhere deep inside they are aware of their own destinations, and perfectly capable to sail through the crashing waves.