Who’s To Judge?: TorahCycle Shoftim

shoftimThis week¹s reading discusses judges and the law, seen, like people, as open to interpretation and evolution. Both strict and loose constructionists, those old Jews: literal about some things, yet completely comfortable with the idea that every situation is unique. That we need to consider our actions and their consequences as we go along.

The reading also identifies men exempted from battle: if you’ve just built a home, planted a vineyard, or gotten married. And my favorite, if you’re “afraid and soft-hearted.” It¹s a lovely acknowledgement that some of us are, and some of us are not, suited for certain things.

Most of us spend a lot of time judging ourselves and others. There’s often a profound relationship between the things we judge flawed in others and the things that piss us off about ourselves. It’s called projection, and if you’re not raising your hand guilty-as-charged you’re either enlightened or in denial.

We spend time fretting, usually about why we are or aren’t everything from kinder or more generous to tougher and more assertive. The list of desired qualities changes, of course, as we evolve and our lives take different forms.  But most of us judge ourselves about our inadequate and inconsistent progress too often and too harshly.

Until something happens. Until we find some grace. Because all that judging actually had some purpose, other than annoying ourselves and those who love and listen to us.

At some point in your life you choose to be or not to be certain things. You say I am or I am not. A parent. A poet. A painter. A philanderer. A priest. The infinite list of beings and doings.

Maybe we just get lucky. Maybe we learn something. Or maybe we finally exhaust ourselves. Like a toddler up past nap time, we get so cranky that we finally conk out. Give in. Say I surrender. This is who I am and this is who I am not.

In self-acceptance, you can embrace your true self, your form in this lifetime. Not in the ego exalting ways of movie stardom or CEO capitalism. But in the loving and less self-judgmental knowing that is the basis of acceptance and self-love.

This acceptance includes becoming more of a soft-hearted person. A wonderful side benefit: as you become more compassionate towards yourself, you also become more compassionate towards others. It’s win-win for all of us. Less angst, less struggle, and maybe someday even less war.

If only we could shorten that nasty middle phase of harping on our failings. The best I can say is that all that judging, all that refinement of your inner laws, helps you learn and understand your values. That in Situation A it’s okay to act or be such and such. But not in Situation B. I accept that there are lines I will not cross. I know them; I forgive myself for when I have and will be kinder to myself in the future.

Not because I am soft-headed, but because as my heart softens I choose peace.

Exercise:  Which parts of yourself are you still judging and fighting?