Can you imagine a life without judgment and suffering? My curiosity about judgment has led me down many paths of discovery, and each journey has resulted in a happier life experience. And much of it involves being vulnerable and willing to admit we might wrong about what we believe to be true.
This was ironic to me, because all my life I had attached myself to the identity of being smart – and the more I was right, the smarter I was.
I was smart, and I was suffering.
I was right, and I was suffering.
I had the upper hand, and I was suffering.
My judgment didn’t make me feel better. I was its prisoner. I had traded my freedom for my right to be right.
One of my favorite Bible verses says:
The truth shall set you free.
When I finally understood this verse, I decided to question everything I believed to be truth. If I’m not experiencing freedom, then what I’m believing is not the truth!
Then, among tools and books (like The Four Agreements), I learned about a very easy process of inquiry that helped me find freedom from judgment, freedom from suffering.
I was at the three-day training to become a certified Passion Test Facilitator when I first did The Work. I was feeling disappointed, resentful, angry at a person who I believed had surely hurt me, so it was a great opportunity to put it to the test. And The Work worked.
But what is The Work?
It turns out that our judgment is a thought, often turned into a story, and when we believe that thought, that story, we suffer, but when we find the clarity that allows us to cease to believe it, we find freedom from anxiety, fear, and pain.
There are three steps to The Work: writing down your judgments, asking four questions, and finding turnarounds. We do The Work when we feel resentment, stress, or frustration. I feel these emotions on a daily basis and questioning my judgments has helped me enjoy more energy, joy, and peace. Let’s explore those steps so you can learn how it’s done:
Step 1 of The Work ~ Judge Your Neighbor, Write It Down
We’ve talked about how we all judge —and often. The first step of The Work is to get real about our judgments and put them on paper. We judge people (others and ourselves), places, and situations, and those judgmental thoughts create stories that we believe and run our life. Katie likes to ask “Who would you be without your story?” because our stories will frequently prevent us from becoming who we were meant to be.
It was difficult for me to give myself permission to be “openly” judgmental and write my judgments down, but I know that “what we resist, persists.” When I finally surrendered, I took my mind back to one of the moments in which this person broke my heart. That’s the first step! Allow yourself to feel the emotions and write about it in short, simple statements, answering the prompts on the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet:
- In this situation, who angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you, and why?
- In this situation, how do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?
- In this situation, what advice would you offer to them? (In the form of should/shouldn’t)
- In order for you to be happy in this situation, what do you need them to think, say, feel, or do?
- What do you think of them in this situation? Make a list. (The instructions are to be petty and judgmental, without being spiritual, right, or careful!)
- What is it about this situation that you don’t ever want to experience again?
Let me illustrate how this works by judging my pretend friend from this post. The one who complained about her “situation” but didn’t listen to my advice! Let’s call her “Amelia” and use her as the target of my judgment.
This is what my answers would look like if I did The Work around my feelings toward her:
I’m irritated by Amelia because she doesn’t listen.
I want her to listen.
She should stop complaining!
I need her to wake up!
She knows better. She’s weak. She needs to change. She’s a mess.
I never want to feel ignored by her again.
Amelia is not real, but these judgments are. We all form opinions about other people’s problems and the reason they have them, focusing on how we feel, instead of showing compassion and empathy for them.
Step 2 of The Work ~ Ask Four Questions
After you fill out the worksheet, then comes the brilliant part. If you want be free, to know the truth behind your statements, it’s time to investigate each of our judgmental statements separately by using four simple, yet brilliant questions that will bring us to exceptional awareness about how much suffering we experience when we believe our own thoughts.
- Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.) You will get answers in the form of words or images, so meditate on this until you feel the answer.
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Close your eyes. What do you see? What would your life look like without that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought? Be still as you listen. Again, I ask, can you imagine your life without judgment and suffering? Bliss.
This is simple yet profound, especially as you give yourself time to ponder the questions, open your heart, and wait for the deep answers to surface.
Step 3 of The Work ~ Turn It Around
The last, and most liberating step, is to turn around the concepts you just questioned. Finding the turnarounds is an opportunity to experience the opposite of what you originally believed. There are several ways a judgment can be turned around:
- to the self
- to the other
- and to the opposite.
For each turnaround you discover, find at least three specific, genuine examples of how it is true for you in this situation.
Let’s take one of my hypothetical judgments about my imaginary friend “Amelia.”
She doesn’t listen!
- I don’t listen to myself
- I don’t listen to Amelia
- Amelia listens to me
For each statement, I would find alternatives that are true or truer and that give me peace. The Work is not a self-blame exercise to feel guilty. It’s about gaining awareness!
After you have turned around statements 1 through 5 from the Worksheet, you will turn statement 6 around using “I am willing to …” and “I look forward to …”
- I’m willing to be okay with being ignored by Amelia
- I’m looking forward to being ignored by Amelia
This is the hardest part for me, but so necessary. It is about what Byron Katie calls “loving what is” and embracing reality, without fear. To be willing and actually look forward to the vulnerabilities of this exciting experience we call life and the people in it… all conditions removed.
Makes me think about another favorite verse:
“Perfect love casts away all fear.”
The Work has been a gift in my life because it has brought peace where I was feeling stress, connection where I was feeling separation, and joy where I was feeling sadness. Whenever I do The Work, I cry, and I feel a sense of relief and oneness. I feel in integrity with myself and in harmony with others. And I teach my children acceptance.
LOVE. Deliciously unconditional love. Sure beats feeling “smart,” or “being right.”
Are you going to put The Work to the test? Once we are willing to admit and identify our judgments, it’s easy to remember the questions, and to do the turnaround. I love that anyone can do The Work, anytime! And it’s all available free! The website even has The Work for kids and the The Work for teens worksheets! Share your thoughts with me below! xOxXoXO