Our standards for how things ought to be are among our most prized possessions. In our eyes, the fact that we have high standards demonstrates that we are a quality person. Our high standards appear to elevate us far above those people who think anything is good, those people who have no taste.
Our standards are, in turn, the basis for our judgments, by which we decide what to select and what to reject. If something is in keeping with our high standards we select it as worthy and acceptable. If something is beneath our standards we reject it. The higher our standards, then, the narrower the range of what we judge to be acceptable, and the broader the range of what we reject as beneath us.
This, in short, is the ugly side of high standards and discriminating judgment. They lead directly to intolerance. The more selective we are, the more intolerant we become. Our judgments decide how narrowly a situation must fit our expectations before we become agitated and upset. They establish how narrow is the range in which people must operate if they are to win our love and approval. They end up causing the people in our lives to feel the ache of not being accepted as they are.
Thus, even while we take pride in our intolerance, I think we also feel ashamed by it. It is just another form of being unloving, and we know it. Judgment rejects; that’s what it’s designed to do. And who likes to think of themselves as a rejecting person?
A Course in Miracles teaches that profound tolerance is a character trait of the psychologically mature and spiritually advanced. The key, it says, to reaching this tolerance lies in reaching a state beyond judgment, beyond selection and rejection. The following two lines speak movingly of this state: “Without judgment are all things equally acceptable….Without judgment are all men brothers” (M-4.III.1). A state of imperturbable tranquility and universal embrace—who has not wanted such a state? Who of us, in some secret place inside, does not dream of greeting life with a tolerance as wide as the ocean?
But how do we get beyond judgment? A Course in Miracles says that the truly honest mind humbly admits that it is simply not in a position to judge. It realizes that the infinite is beyond its grasp, and recognizes that the infinite is confronting it within each specific situation throughout every day.
We still have to make judgments, to decide whether to go right or left, to decide which opinion to embrace and which to let go. But, says the Course, if we can stand before the infinite in each situation in humble admission that we don’t know, the infinite will flow into our minds and tell us what to do.
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]