a heart that has room

I've been searching the Web to no avail for a quote I remember reading approximately ten years ago. If you recognize it, will you let me know who deserves credit? I think it goes something like this:

A heart that has room for even one enemy is not a safe place for a friend.

As usual, I could quibble with some of it. But for the most part, I think it makes sense. Have you ever had the experience of listening to a friend complain about or belittle someone who was not present, and felt yourself wondering what she says about YOU in your absence?

I think this quote is speaking to something most of us are intuitively aware of: it doesn't feel good to be judged. Yes, judgment seems to be part of the human package. We all do it to some degree. And I've seen people hold and present their judgments in a variety of ways. Some are more comfortable for me to relate to than others.

Perhaps a few oversimplified definitions could be useful here. When I say judgment, I'm talking about ways of describing, evaluating, packaging, and attributing intention to others which imply that someone is bad, wrong, less than, or stupid. The kind of judgment I am talking about holds others at a distance. In effect, it says "You are doing something I would never do," and "You are not like me."

To my way of thinking, judgment's counterpart is acceptance, which I define as compassionate understanding. It means we realize that under similar circumstances, beliefs, and conditions, we too may have made that decision or taken that action.

Acceptance does not stand above the choices of others and evalute them; it gracefully allows each of us to find our own way and to learn from our own experiences. It respects our common humanity.

It says, "It's okay, it happens, I understand."

It asks, "How can we repair our relationship/restore the balance/return to love together in the Now?"

It has no interest in identifying right from wrong, or separating us. It puts love first. It shines a spotlight on what we have in common.

My quibbles with the quote? Well, if we understand that sometimes people stand in judgment and create separation and enemies because they need to do this to feel better about themselves, then we have found a way to embrace them compassionately even as they judge.

If people believe in a black and white world with clear lines between right and wrong, then doesn't it make sense that they would want to be firmly on the side of Right? And that they would want us to know where they stand? I'm sure I would feel that way. In fact, I'm sure I have felt that way.

Using this awareness to think about the folks who gossip, criticize, or evaluate, we no longer feel vulnerable to their judgment. It becomes clear that it's not even about us. After a certain point in our personal development, we no longer need a guarantee of non-judgment to feel safe.

We no longer hold back our love or friendship, because we know that doing so hurts only ourselves. Others can judge us all they want, and we can embrace them without needing to separate ourselves from them with the thought or words: "I would never judge someone like that!" (Ironic, isn't it? To judge someone for judging others is still judgment.)

The sword of judgment is a heavy one. Eventually, it cuts the hand that wields it. Those who so vehemently judge others rarely escape unscathed -- during quiet moments in the dark of night, they turn the sword upon themselves.

When I remember this, my heart opens wide again. Only Beings in great pain would feel such a need to strike out at others. Striking back at them serves no kind or loving purpose, and simply perpetuates the chain of pain.

Acceptance doesn't mean we all become doormats. We can still exercise discernment, which to me is different than judgment.

Judgment says, "You are bad or wrong or mistaken and I refuse to accept you."

Discernment says, "I don't feel good right here, and I think I will step back a bit until I feel like myself again. You are fine just as you are, and I can enjoy you better from a little bit farther away."

It's late and I'm tired and not at all sure any of this will make sense in the morning! But it wanted to be written tonight, so for whatever it's worth, there you go.

*******
It's morning now, and I'm still not sure this post will make sense to anyone other than me. I do hope it's obvious that my musings reflect only my experience. For me, it is painful to stand in judgment of myself or others. It hurts to create separation by evaluation; to disapprove, condescend, or scold, or to think I could know or do better than they have.

Being human, of course I still do it anyway, and it hurts every time. Sometimes I notice right away, sometimes I don't. I always feel much better when I let my love, approval, attention, and energy flow freely again.

Of course that won't be true for everyone. I trust you to sort out whatever resonates with your experience in my words, and simply discard the rest.

ps: my son graduated from boot camp, and me, my mom, and my daughter were there to see it! he's back home now for a couple weeks, working in the local recruiting office before he reports for duty in Grand Haven, MI. My thanks to all of you who sent kind words and good wishes!