When you judge yourself you judge others. When you accept yourself you accept others. This is why you must begin with yourself!
We’re in the season of forgiveness. Forgiveness is very powerful. We all need to be forgiven and we all need to forgive. And we struggle with forgiveness, we struggle in particular with being forgiving. When someone does something wrong, how can I let the wrong go? What they did was wrong, they hurt me. Forgiving them is just letting them off the hook.
And here is what we need to know about forgiveness. Forgiveness has nothing to do with wronging a right. It has nothing to do with what is right and what is wrong. It has everything to do with how we respond to the wrong.
Do we leave room for wrongdoing, which we call in English forgiving? Or do we not tolerate wrongdoing and we remain unforgiving?
The fact that we forgive doesn’t say that what the person did was not wrong. It just says everything about the way I am choosing to relate to the person who has done something wrong. Have I ever done something wrong? Do I want forgiveness when I do wrong? Have I ever done something wrong deliberately because I was angry, upset or in a moment of desire? Can others be the same way?
That is what we need to ask and we need to ask ourselves what our relationship is, how we are going to relate to one who has done wrong.
Forgiveness is actually deeply intertwined with the judgment of others. Can we see another person’s faults without judging them? Seeing another person, seeing their faults and understanding, I have faults, they have faults, we all have faults and understanding that people are faulty. Not justifying it. We’re not saying it shouldn’t be corrected, or that the person shouldn’t improve, but we can accept where the person is right now. Forgiveness is the ability to accept a person for where they’re at right now. This is really what forgiveness is, when we learn to stop judging. The big question is, how do we stop judging and how do we start forgiving? How do we stop judging and how do we start accepting people for who they are?
So I would like to share with you a most powerful teaching, just a few lines written by Reb Tzvi Freeman. And there are a number of very deep lessons in these few lines and I’m only going to focus on one of the many lessons. And here is what he writes: You cannot touch the depths of another until you have touched the depths of your own soul. If you love yourself for your achievements, your current assets, the way you do things and handle the world and despise yourself for failure in the same, it follows that your relationship with another will also be transient and superficial. To achieve deep and lasting love of another person, you need to first experience the depth within yourself, an inner core that doesn’t change with time or events. If it is the true essence, it is an essence shared by the other person as well and deep love becomes unavoidable.
So he generally mentions here the idea that if we get our value from external things, then the value of ourselves is going to be transient and that’s the way we are going to relate to other people as well. When we have a true acceptance and love for ourselves that comes from our inner core, from our soul, from our inherent value, then we love and accept other people.
One essential point, which is a point I want to focus on here, is the way we relate to ourselves is the way we relate to everyone else. If we are judging of other people, it is for a very simple reason. It is because we are very judgemental of ourselves. If we are accepting of other people, it is because we are accepting of ourselves.
When you do something wrong, how do you speak to yourself? What is your inner conversation? If you cannot accept what you’ve done wrong and instead use arrogance to say, how can I have done that, I can’t believe I’ve done that, what’s wrong with me, and beating ourselves up, but we can accept that I’m not a perfect person and that I’ve done something wrong, which gives us the clarity of mind to then ask ourselves how we can prevent ourselves from doing it in the future as opposed to going into full condemnation of ourselves and in some distorted way feeling like we’ve dealt with it because we’ve condemned ourselves, then we actually, in embracing ourselves, learn to embrace other people. When we remain in that judgment and condemnation of our own selves when we do something wrong, that’s the way we respond to other people and that’s why it is very true that the way we treat others is much more of a testament to who we are than a testament to who they are. Because the way we respond to what other people do says so much about us and can be very revealing and, in this case, can be very helpful.
When we realize that we are so judgemental of ourselves, it spills out in our judgment of others. Let’s turn back to ourselves and learn to accept ourselves to realize that we are not perfect. As Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the great Chassidic mystic, teaches us that when one is praying and they have a foreign thought, a strange thought, an interrupting thought that comes into their mind as they are praying, what should they do? He explains that it’s actually arrogant to get upset at yourself for having this thought interrupt your prayers because that would assume that you’re some great mighty person, some holy person who never gets, you know, interrupting thoughts in your head. Are you that powerful in your thought process that you never have interrupting thoughts that you should condemn yourself? No. You probably aren’t and, therefore, you simply need to stand up and say, whoops, I just noticed I had this interrupting thought, let me get it out so I can continue praying.
When we don’t judge ourselves but accept ourselves, then we can actually productively respond. And when we do that to ourselves, we bring that directly to other people as well. And that actually is the best way to respond to another person’s fault, because that gives them the context and environment where they can rehabilitate themselves as opposed to when we are condemned or judged where it makes it very difficult for us to rehabilitate ourselves.
And we can ask ourselves another very simple question that will assess whether we do or don’t accept ourselves. What do you think God thinks of you? Do you think that God is happy with you or he is upset with you? If you think that God is upset with you, you need to start learning how to be more accepting of yourself and less arrogant about putting yourself on some high pedestal. If you realize that God is loving you, you’re on to a very good track and that’s why God is so forgiving. And that’s why we should be so forgiving.
When you judge yourself, you judge others; when you accept yourself, you accept others. My friends, begin with yourself, do not begin with others. Because the one thing that shows up in every aspect of your life is you.