Evaluate, Rather Than Judge

One time my uncle’s car broke down on a sparsely populated stretch of two-lane highway. This happened long before cell phones, and he was stuck in the middle of nowhere. He had to depend on the off chance that someone would happen along.

After a while he heard a soft buzzing that sounded like a swarm of bees heading in his direction. As the noise grew louder, he watched the horizon. Soon a group of motorcycle riders crested the hill.

Even though my uncle had not personally encountered bikers before, he was terrified at the sight of them. He had formed a critical conclusion of motorcycle riders from others’ opinions and harbored a preconceived idea that they were all dangerous. He feared they would rob and possibly harm him. With nowhere to hide, he felt completely helpless as he watched them approach.

I’ve known several tattooed biker guys with scraggly beards, do-rags, and wallets on chains, and I realize how they might seem ominous. Yet, I know from experience that we cannot accurately measure the true character of any person or group of people based on a stereotype.

Most of the motorcycle group waved as they passed by my uncle. Two riders stopped and politely asked if they could be of help. They discovered the problem and repaired it, and soon my uncle was back on the road with a new perspective on people who ride motorcycles.

Evaluation is the process of determining the true value of something based on evidence and reasoning. Heart evaluation works the same way. It involves investing time to gauge ourselves, the situation, and others from many different angles, with the goal of determining the truth for ourselves.

My uncle made a critical assessment, an ego judgment, based on little or no evidence. This isn’t uncommon. Such opinions are often formed about those whose religion, ethnicity, political beliefs, or socioeconomic status is different from our own.

But remember that opinion is not fact. Opinion is: (1) a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty, and (2) a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.

For instance, I am a positive person; but this does not mean my head is buried in the sand. It would be easy for me to develop a negative opinion of life if I based it only on news reports or the editorial commentary to which I am exposed. The reality is there are countless media sources that think nothing of altering images or even staging photos or making things up for impact. Even responsible media deliver news of depressing events right into our homes. Media bombard us with tragedy and the worst of human behavior. If we allow ourselves to latch on to the pessimistic representations of what is wrong with the world, then we would feel as if we were hopelessly surrounded by negative people and irreversible situations. We would automatically look at others with a judgmental eye.

Know What You Value to Know Who You Are

All fulfilling relationships whether they are friendships, family interactions, or with significant others, have one thing in common – they are made up of people who have a clearly defined sense of their own identity.  Each person has a solid understanding of who they are, so they are comfortable communicating their needs and desires to others. This is why to have the best relationships possible with others, you must be strong on your own, as an individual.

Are you strong on your own? Meaning do you have a solid identity as your own person? Or do you need other people to validate you and provide your sense of identity?

These are important questions to ask yourself. It is easy for us to lose ourselves in relationship, if we do not first have a solid sense of who we are and what we want in our relationships.

To maintain a solid sense of personal identity in relationship it is important to accept – who you are (how you BE in life) is what you value.  Character values drive the attitude you have about yourself and others. Values also create your behavior. Which means beyond whatever label you place on yourself or other people place on you (wife, mother, teacher, friend), who you are as an individual is expressed through how you behave, your beliefs, thoughts, dreams, etc. And, your behavior, beliefs, thoughts, dreams are determined by what you value.

For instance, it is important to determine if you are confident or insecure.  Honest or dishonest.  Loyal or unfaithful. Forgiving or blaming. Accepting or judging. Cooperative or confrontational. Heart-centered or ego-driven. Patient or impatient. Kind or cruel. Flexible or controlling. Responsible or irresponsible. Dependable or unreliable. Open or closed. Compassionate or unfeeling. Observant or inattentive. Devoted or uncommitted. Encouraging or discouraging. Nurturing or neglectful. Peaceful or violent. Respectful or impolite. Supportive or unhelpful.

Identifying your weaknesses is as important as knowing your strengths. To bring your best half to all your relationships, you must be willing to work on the areas you identify where you need to change and grow.

Why? Because if we are not truly a patient person (most often) we cannot identify someone who is regularly impatient.  Patient people like to associate with other people who are patient. We’re not perfect, and will not always be patient, but we can choose to be patient more often than not. If we value being patient and get into relationship with someone who is (most often) impatient we will suffer.

If we are dishonest we will consent to associate with other people who are dishonest yet honesty is the foundation of all successful relationships. Liars don’t get respect and trust from others. Not knowing if we can trust someone will only cause suffering. In order to trust others we first must trust ourselves. We CANNOT trust ourselves if we lie to ourselves. If we’re dishonest with ourselves we will accept dishonesty in our relationships. Each of these negative behaviors goes against the core values of a person of character who is bringing the best of themselves to their relationships.

If I value honesty, kindness and patience, I will lose myself by going against my values to be in relationship with people who are dishonest, cruel and impatient. Going against my core values leaves me feeling unfulfilled, disappointed, resentful and frustrated.  To feel fulfilled I have to live my values by expressing the behavior; not just telling myself I am a patient, kind and honest person. And I have to live my values by setting boundaries with people who consistently behave in ways opposite my core values (my personal identity). I don’t associate with liars, thieves, victims, complainers or people who hurt others. Even if they are family, going against myself to accept the negative behavior of someone is NOT SELF LOVING OR RESPECTFUL. And it does not change them, but will most definitely change me for the worse.

Through the personal planning process of determining who I am and what I really want, I realized to have the best, most fulfilling relationships, we need to bring the best of ourselves to those relationships. To be the best, most confident and self-assured person on our own, it is necessary to assess our strengths and weaknesses in the form of our values, beliefs, and behaviors. To avoid losing ourselves in relationship we must determine what values are currently a part of our consistent everyday behavior (most often) and which are not.

Today you can begin changing your life and your relationships by determining what you value in terms of love’s behaviors.  Is it honesty, loyalty, compassion, promptness, cooperation, patience? If you are impatient think about how this creates stress, frustration and does not create positive change. If you think it is okay to tell little white lies consider how it feels to be lied to, even about small things. If you are judgmental ask yourself how this helps create positive relationships with yourself and others.

Healthy and fulfilling relationships are founded upon the sharing and receiving of love which is caring and affection expressed through positive action.  To be loving and to know when you are being loved requires living aligned with the values of love. When you love yourself by staying true to yourself and what you value, you no longer lose yourself in relationship.


True Power is Owing Your Behavior

While out and about in the neighborhood with my dog Madison, a corgi-sheltie rescue, I noticed a group of young men walking toward me. They were talking loudly and pushing each other around. Shoulder to shoulder, they moved in a tight, five-abreast formation that spanned the entire width of the sidewalk, leaving no room for anyone who may have been approaching from the opposite direction.

With a cup of hot coffee in one hand and Madison’s leash in the other, I continued walking. As we steadily moved toward each other, I realized there was nothing for me to do except stop. The group, seemingly unaware of my presence, did not break rank. At the last possible second, a young man bumped into me, and my dog and I were forced off the sidewalk and into the street. The group did not stop. The young men did not look back as they went on their way. I silently collected myself, my dog, and what was left of my coffee.

In the past, chances are good I would have impulsively reacted to the young men, pointing out their inconsiderate behavior with something profound, such as, “Hey, assholes! Didn’t you see me? You are rude, selfish little jerks.” This time I did not. Today, I own my behavior.

You and I cannot control or change anyone else but ourselves. How other people choose to behave is a reflection on them. People may be rude, insulting, condescending, or deceitful, and yet their behavior is a reflection of who they are. How we behave in response is a reflection of who we are. The important thing to remember is that our behavior demonstrates, to us and to others, our level of self-discipline, which reveals how much we love and respect ourselves (or not).

Positive change requires challenging ourselves. The next time you encounter a rude driver, thoughtless teenager, or an arrogant co-worker and you behave in a way that leaves you disappointed in yourself, be completely honest and assume accountability for your part of the exchange. Being able to admit we are wrong is the action that gets us on the right track. Holding ourselves accountable empowers us to make different, more positive choices next time.

Stay True to Yourself While in Relationship with Others

Loving other people does not mean losing yourself in relationship. Relationships are meant to help you find out more about yourself not give up who you are for another person. 

Through e-mail, I agreed to pick up and return my friend Katherine to the airport. Two weeks before her arrival, something came up requiring me to change plans for transporting her back. Still through e-mail, I assured her I would find someone to give her a ride back.

She arrived and I was there to greet her. After some time together, I confirmed I was unable to give her a ride back to the airport. The news came as a shock. Nothing I said could convince my friend I had sent a second e-mail two weeks earlier; she thought I was lying.

It was not easy, but the truth was no matter how much I wanted validation from Katherine, there was absolutely nothing to be gained by arguing with her. Leading with the heart is caring more for friendship than pride, so I chose to let go of my ego’s need to be recognized as right. I did not want to be angry with her, nor did I want our time together to be uncomfortable. The only option I saw to ensure peace of mind was to be patient, accept what was, and allow the situation to resolve itself.

A few weeks after my friend returned home, she was having repairs made to her computer when several mysteriously lost e-mails arrived in her in-box. Among them was the one I had sent.

My friend was distant and embarrassed for not giving me the benefit of the doubt. She was upset at herself for allowing hurt feelings to invent all sorts of reasons to justify turning her back on me. She was also angry at herself for discounting my history of honest and loyal behavior. Throughout the entire exchange I stood strong knowing I had done the right thing and I was telling the truth.

I learned when we place more importance on what other people think of us than what we know of ourselves we in essence don flowing silk robes and place ourselves in the middle of a dense rose garden. Life situations and interactions with other people become masses of twisted thorns, ripping and tearing at our fragile self-image. No matter how painful the thorns are or how deeply they tear at us, we are uncomfortable standing on our own two feet in our own truth. Without someone to validate us and boost our confidence, who will we be?

Today, I am confident in who I am, what my values are and what behaviors I want to share in my relationships. Yet I know what it is like to lose myself in relationship. There was a time I let the opinions and behaviors of others overrule what I knew was right and best for me. But, every time I went against my values in order to fit in with the crowd or endured and ignored abusive treatment, I suffered.

My low self-esteem caused me to look outside myself in an attempt to make me feel better. I ignored other people’s negative behavior, preferring to create a fantasy of who I thought they could be. Too often I went along with the crowd, even if it meant putting myself in danger. I repressed my own needs to please other people, and allowed myself to be treated like a doormat. Not standing up for myself showed a lack of self-respect and made me an easy target for abuse. And, I attempted to love others while not knowing how to love myself.

To break the pattern of losing my individuality in relationship I had to learn how to be a strong half of a healthy relationship. By focusing on my behavior in the unsuccessful relationships I’d had, I realized to have any chance of creating the fulfilling, positive relationships I wanted, I first had to determine who I am. I needed to figure out what type of character I wanted in a life-partner. I had to determine what it means to be a good friend and partner. I needed to know what it really means to love and be loved. And, I had to accept I cannot control or change anyone but me.


Question the Path You Are On

Self-love, respect, and inner peace come from learning how to travel through life in the easiest and most fulfilling manner. Finding the path of least resistance requires accepting it is your actions that create your life. Through self-assessment, you identify those aspects of your behavior, beliefs, judgments, and fears that are preventing you from creating the life you truly want.

Confronting your behavior is not nearly as difficult a process as you may believe. Yes, it takes time to be comfortable looking candidly at yourself. At first, what you consider faults stand out under the bright lights of self-evaluation. So you may tell yourself it is easier not to look. Yet, if you do not look at yourself, it is impossible to see what you do like about you. Without self-assessment it is also impossible to identify those aspects of yourself that you do not like but can change.

Getting to the heart of the matter of self-change requires shifting your ego’s focus from the laundry list of what everyone else needs to do to make your life easier to concentrating on what you can change about yourself. To begin moving past your ego’s resistance to change, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you own your behavior, or do you pass the buck for your actions?
  • Do you evaluate yourself and others based on seeking facts, or do you allow reactive ego to jump to judgment?
  • Are you blindly following the beliefs of others, or do you seek to establish your own?
  • Does fear keep you tied up in knots, or have you chosen to walk in faith?

Don’t be upset or judgmental if what you discover is disappointing. There was a time I was not the person I told myself I was. Today I am the person I always wanted to be only because I took time to determine what was not right about me.

Only when you know what needs changing can you change your path, so your life changes for the better. Positive change begins by being truthful with you, about you. Intentionally looking within, you reach the understanding of who you are, what you value, what about yourself is going right, what is not going right, and what wounds need to heal.

Questioning the path you are on allows you to become aware of and eventually break free from unconscious behavior patterns. By honestly looking at yourself, your heart begins to take the lead in creating your life.