Why Judgment Comes Before Compassion

As a society, we tend to judge others before offering compassion. Does that make us terrible? Nope. We just need to learn a new way. 

by Sarah Petruno, Shamana

Human nature seems to include a certain amount of judgment.

Judging others for the choices they make, from what they wear, to how much they eat, to what they eat, to what even what hairstyles and outfits they choose.

We hear about this culture of judgment and criticism - of others.

But what we don’t hear about is the judgment and criticism we place on ourselves.

A vital part of each of us is something known as our shadow self.

This is not our negative or bad side, but rather, the sum of parts that we perceive as unlovable, gross, or shameful about ourselves. These are all the bits and pieces that we consider to be our shadow side, the side we don’t want photographed or want people to know about.

This is the part of ourselves that we judge and criticize, internally, and sometimes even with verbal put-downs.

Throughout life, we become very familiar with this shadow part of ourselves. We focus on it. We dwell on it.

We live in a society that teaches us to look for our perceived flaws and fix them, to make them perfect. To make it so we are no longer “flawed.”

We are raised to be flaw seeing experts in ourselves. Honed and skilled at finding that which makes us less than appealing to others and not worthy of value.

This becomes such a fine tuned skill that we’re then able to use it to pinpoint that which others consider parts of their shadow. The ugly that others see in themselves, we see it too.

And, in many cases, we say it.

We are flaw seeking missiles - in ourselves, and in others.

As a society, we tend to judge others before offering compassion. Does that make us terrible? Nope. We just need to learn a new way. 

We’d be horrified if someone pointed out these parts in ourselves that we’ve tried to conceal, and we’ve likely had it happen to us at least once.

Rather than extending compassion, we are trained to judge first.

Not because we are heartless, soulless, impolite beings.

But, because we’ve been trained to do the exact same thing to ourselves. To see only the shadow, the unacceptable. To focus on it, to hone in on it.

In most upbringings, we are not taught to focus on self-love and to accept all parts of ourselves as valuable. Society doesn’t teach this as a whole, the media doesn’t, and it does not exist in a widespread way in American culture.

Our parents see our grades of B+ and A- and focus on how we could improve next time. Many coaches and counselors see failings and focus on what went wrong and how to fix it, rather than what we did right. Our doctors see a number on a scale, and frown in disapproval at our food choices.

When we judge others first, it’s because we judge ourselves first.

To re-write the script, there’s only one thing we need to do.

We need to be compassionate with ourselves. More accepting of ourselves. More loving of ourselves as a whole. We need to embrace all parts of ourselves as lovable, the bright parts and at the shadow parts.

Only then can we begin to see others past their perceived flaws, once we’ve begun to see past our own.

We have to see ourselves as having value before we can start to see the value in someone else.

This is a process that can start today - find out how.

With love,


LAST UPDATED: July 17, 2015

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