Practicing Nonjudgment, Course-Style

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

I have been focusing on nonjudgment lately. Every now and then I get on a nonjudgment kick, probably because my mind is so judgment-oriented. I have a deep-seated resistance to the idea that I should just turn off the process of judgment.

Actually, I feel that the Course supports a certain element of this resistance. It uses the word “judgment” in many ways, some of them clearly positive. It mentions “the one right use of judgment” and often talks about the Holy Spirit’s judgment.

This clearly puts it at odds with many contemporary approaches to nonjudgment, which tend to see no right use of judgment. The approach of one well-known spiritual teacher, for instance, was born when she realized, “My husband should not be more honest-because he wasn’t. My children shouldn’t respect me more-because they didn’t.” She realized that her husband’s dishonesty and her children’s disrespect was simply “what is” and therefore shouldn’t be judged.

In a class last year, I had an uprising on my hands when I suggested that this wasn’t the Course’s approach. But the fact remains that this really is profoundly alien to the Course. The reason is rooted in the nature of judgment. Judgment measures something against a standard (at least this is probably the main meaning we give the word). When you judge, the implication is that you can accurately measure something against the appropriate standard.

Therefore, to say that someone’s dishonesty or disrespect shouldn’t be judged, but rather accepted as what is, suggests that somehow standards don’t apply here. In this example, for instance, standards of honesty and respect don’t apply. We shouldn’t measure this person’s behavior against those standards (for reasons that are unclear to me).

Call me unspiritual, but I can’t live with that. That just sounds like denial to me, like I am seeking peace by covering my eyes. And I think the Course agrees. It is fairly ruthless in measuring everything underneath the level of Heaven against ultimate standards. It measures the entire world against the standard of truth, and decides that the world so hopelessly fails to measure up that the world simply can’t be true. So from the Course’s standpoint, we aren’t supposed to refrain from judging the world because it’s “what is.” Rather, we are supposed to (following the Holy Spirit) judge the world as so out of keeping with reality that it’s “what isn’t.” Our peace, then, flows not from labeling the word as “what is” but as “what isn’t.” I can hardly imagine two more opposite approaches.

I’m saying this to share why my mind can’t go there. I can’t just turn off my judgment about things that should be judged, things that woefully fail to measure up to standards of truth and perfection. Rather, I need a sound reason to turn off the judgment process. I need a solid explanation of why, in this case, it does not apply. Otherwise, I feel like I am seeking a lobotomy-based peace.

I feel that I find that sound reason in the Course. One of its reasons for why I shouldn’t judge my brother’s fundamental nature is that it was created by God. For instance, look at these two quotes:

It is not up to [God’s teachers] to judge His Son. And to judge His Son is to limit his Father. (M-22.7:4-5)

Seek not to appraise the worth of God’s Son whom He created holy, for to do so is to evaluate his Father and judge against Him. (T-14.III.15:1)

If God Himself created this brother’s fundamental nature, who am I to say that it doesn’t measure up? Of course it measures up-it was created by God. Given its source, my brother’s nature must perfectly conform to standards so high that they are literally beyond my comprehension. If I judge my brother’s nature, then I am by implication judging God Himself. Isn’t that a little arrogant?

If, for example, you were told that a certain painter is considered by all art critics to be the greatest painter in the history of the world, and you were told that you were standing before his greatest masterpiece, wouldn’t you hesitate to judge it? Not because standards don’t apply, but because standards beyond your current grasp have surely been met.

The Course actually speaks in a similar way about our brother. It says that he is God’s masterpiece:

How could the Lord of Heaven not be glad if you appreciate His masterpiece?…This brother is His perfect gift to you. And He is glad and thankful when you thank His perfect Son for being what he is. (T-25.II.9:1, 6-7)

In other words, we are supposed to see our brother as God’s “perfect” masterpiece. And God, like any artist, will be “glad and thankful” when we appreciate His masterpiece. This is so different than thinking standards do not apply. Rather, its whole basis is that the perfect standards have been met.

So, to make a short story long, that is how I am focusing on nonjudgment. I have been practicing lines like “Judge not God’s Son, but follow in the way He has established” (W-pI.159.10:3), and “Think you that you can judge the Self [Son] of God?” (T-15.V.11:1). They make sense to me. They give me sound reason for turning dropping judgment. The idea is not “This is ‘what is,’ so however crummy it may be, turn your brain off.” Rather, the idea is “How can I possibly judge God’s masterpiece?”

This has nothing to do with my brother’s behavior. From the Course’s standpoint, his thinking and behavior almost certainly are mostly error-based (a judgment if there ever was one). But his nature is something else entirely. It is God’s perfect masterpiece. That is what I am trying to remember these days.