I wrote an article a few years ago called “The Foundation of Love” – Releasing Judgments and Expectations for Tinybuddha.com when I first learned the destructive impact of judgment in our personal relationships.
I still hear from readers searching for the ‘foundation of love’ where this message of living judgment-free continues to resonate (Google find it first among 232 M hits!).
I believe it’s the secret ingredient to experiencing unconditional love when no one gets attacked for being wrong with someone else’s conditions of their ‘right’ way.
It transformed the way I could connect authentically with the people in my life.
There was more freedom to be who I am, and an opportunity to see others as they truly are.
I’ve become more clear about the foundation of this elusive thing we call love, and wanted to share some deeper insights.
This straight talk by relationship expert Esther Perel offers some profound insights into why it’s so difficult to hold onto the passion in our partner connection – sexual intimacy, excitement, and joy over time.
She distinguishes between what we desire versus what we need – where do they intersect? Stability or Adventure? Can you have both? The space to grow spiritually in your own skin is so important.
Although she’s referring to a partner relationship, I believe you can apply these ideas to any long-term relationship. How is your parent-child connection? What about with co-workers or friends? What keeps it together?
Both stability, and aliveness are necessary.
There’s a misconception about what we think loving unconditionally means, while seeking these 2 fundamentals in our relationships: what we need, and what we want.
The general belief goes: “no matter what anyone does, or how they treat us, we’re supposed to love them anyway.” Not exactly.
Are you ok if someone attacks you? Are you supposed to be tolerant, or worse complacent? What if someone’s attitude is annoying or their complaining sucks the energy out of you? Criticizing or judging them for showing up badly will backfire on you. You become someone who is now attacking with your own justification.
We’ll all entitled to our own negative opinion, or conclusion about any behaviour. We can disengage from it’s toxic energy, but allowing its energy to set yourself up against another person will come back to poison you.
People won’t trust you fully, and won’t show up authentically. You’ve shown them that it’s not safe in your energetic space when you openly criticize, and judge other people. Masks will be worn. You won’t know who’s trying to please you, or avoid you.
When you reach an acceptance of who you are with your perceived faults, and mistakes, and still love yourself without self-criticism or self-judgment – you develop an enormous capacity to create a safe space with others.
You don’t have to like everything about yourself to love yourself, but being self-destructive with blame, guilt, or shame will block love from flowing.
This prayer has been the wisdom for this vision of living judgment-free:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Conditional love says ‘follow my way’ or I’ll stop loving you. You stop bringing love to someone by the way you treat them. Maybe its a snide remark, or deep-seated resentment, indifference, even hate.
It’s conditional when criticism, and judgment are part of your relationship on either side. I need you to do it this way (criticism) or I need you to be this way (judgment) in order for me to treat you to my love.
I still get asked “what are your 4 C’s again”? It’s been a huge challenge to describe in words what can only be understood in practice! The 4 C’s describe the kind of energy you hold when you criticize or judge that blocks love with your conditions of making someone ‘right or wrong’.
These are Correcting and Convincing for criticism, and Controlling and Condemning for judgment.
It becomes a divisive space between you, and someone else instead of a unifying one.
Judgmental energy creates blind spots, especially with those closest to us because we want them to see, and experience the world the way we do.
Criticism, and judgment tends to be lumped together as the same concept, and I had difficult clearly distinguishing them.
With both criticism, and judgment, you are trying to change someone to behave your ‘right way’ of how you think they should behave, what they should do.
- I Correct my daughter’s behaviour as if she’s broken needing me to ‘fix her’ by pointing out what she’s doing wrong instead of showing her how to do it right.
- I try to Convince my husband that he should eat healthier providing all kinds of information with an imposing energy that makes him feel wrong for however he’s eating.
The immediate reaction will be defensiveness because no one likes being told what to do that runs against what they are currently doing. Unless they’ve asked for your guidance or the space of trust, and non-judgment is present to share your suggestions it’s unwanted advice.
They simply may not be open, ready or in a place to understand.
- I get controlling with the way I need something done where I’m now yelling, and forcing my child to follow my ‘orders’. It becomes a tug of war.
- I condemn a false friend who’s acted in ways that are completely unacceptable to me for how I would treat anyone – let alone a friend. There’s resentful energy in me that’s judgmental I need to release.
I can justify the way I feel to stand up for my values, but the contrast is also necessary to give me a stronger picture of who I am, and who I am not.
To be in serenity is to accept that I cannot change someone who is choosing to behave in ways I don’t like. That’s a choice they make, and allowing them to choose gives me a new found freedom. I get to choose not to receive their negative gifts by how I show up.
Self-criticism will lead to feelings of guilt (doing wrong).
Self-judgment will lead to feelings of shame (being wrong).
Your ‘inner critic’ is not your discerning voice, neither is your ‘inner judge’. These come from your ego that lives from fear. Your objective mind, and soul jointly discern what’s ‘right, and wrong’ for you from a loving, and logical place within.
You can sense it’s leading voice by its nature of seeking these 3 values: truth, beauty, and goodness.
Without criticism or judgment, the space is wide open to be yourself. To love, and be loved unconditionally. It’s magical. And you have a safe space to disagree where the discourse will be real without the drama : )