To become significant, we must have the clarity and strength of will to non-judgmentally accept others – and, for that matter, ourselves – for who and what they currently are. We are all different, biologically, culturally, ethnically, religiously, as a result of our individual life experiences. We also grow and change at different paces. Successful people may judge others on the basis of these differences. At best, they tolerate people who are unlike them in one respect or another; at worst, they regard them as threatening. Significant people, however, suspend judgements, going beyond mere tolerance to attain and express true, deep, and mindful acceptance of others and of themselves, just as they are.
Through my early twenties, I spent a number of years in Sales. I started in electronics, and gradually moved my way up through higher and higher ticket items to increase my commissions, until a few years later I was doing really well in a Honda dealership selling cars. Through a number of circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control, I left that job and then was laid off from the next two jobs. During this time, my wife Emma was pregnant with our first child. Stress and pressure were (for obvious reasons) quite high. I ended up taking the only job that I knew would allow us to at least survive during this difficult time. A sales job in electronics. This was a very humbling time for me. It seemed I had taken a seven-year step backwards, returning to the starting line. I did the only thing one can reasonably do in this situation: embrace it, and sell the crap out of those TVs.
What does this story have to do with Judging others? I’m getting there. I knew and had a relationship with the store manager, which allowed me to get this job very quickly. The other sales staff in my department consisted of younger guys (not unlike me, seven years prior.) These guys I later found out all “hated” me. Who was I? A seasonal employee who shows up out of nowhere and outsells almost everybody in the store? Why is he even allowed to sell the big TVs? He’s just stealing all our customers! To be honest, I’m not familiar with all the things they whined about (thankfully). I was far too busy trying to feed my pregnant wife and make sure we didn’t get evicted from of our apartment. All I remember was that not a single one of them spoke to me for a long time. (Sidenote: Two of them eventually did, and consequently are still close friends of mine to this day.)
One of these young men eventually attained a management position and took this new opportunity to pull me into an office for a “chat”. I will always remember this interview.
His opening statement was: “Don’t you care that everyone here hates you?!”
Long story short: No. These guys judged me early. Instead of taking advantage of having someone with far more experience to learn from, they chose not only to waste energy “hating” me, but they also let it hurt their own performance and sales. Of course it wasn’t their fault, right? I was simply “stealing” all their opportunities. I wish I could have seen a tally of how much time they spent complaining about it at work, versus actually working, to give you an accurate representation of how judging others will tear you down; it will make you so much less than what you could be. But then again, we’ve all probably been guilty of this at one time or another.
Most of us understand that our differences are the essence of humanity; our unique characteristics should never be the source of hatred or conflict. Significant people reach the greatest heights because, through soul searching and hard intellectual work, they have come to welcome and value uniqueness and difference. Their cultivated stance of openness, grounded in a deep acceptance of their own authentic selves, allows them to stretch further, learn more, avoid the pitfalls of resentment and anger, and become the best they can be. It also enables them to stretch, inspire, teach, and lead others in a way that leaves a lasting legacy. We’ve seen that we have to meet people where they are in order to help them grow. As Carl Jung says, “We cannot change anything until we accept it…. Once we accept our limits we go beyond them.”