Dictionaries specify that the word "judgment" refers to the process of forming an opinion after careful consideration. Judgments have their place in a court of law where, by social agreement, authority is granted to a judge or jury to determine whether or not someone's behavior is or is not in accordance with the law. However, while no one has granted us the authority to play judge and jury in our personal lives, most of us make snap judgments all the time declaring our approval or disapproval of whatever and whomever we are observing or experiencing. The problem is that these snap judgments forgo careful consideration, and are typically merely the automatic expression of our personal prejudices and pet peeves. They happen so fast that we often have trouble distinguishing between our judgments and reality, and sometimes we are not even aware of the fact that we are judging ourselves or others. These little judgments, whether we say them out loud or not, are often extremely damaging to those we judge.
Typically, our point of view is built upon thousands of little snap judgments and assumptions we make about who and what we encounter in our lives. This amalgamation becomes so familiar to us that we seldom question its veracity. Here's an experiment for you. Spend about five minutes observing your mind chatter while out in public without judging what you hear yourself thinking. Notice how often you make snap judgments. For example, "He could afford to lose a few pounds," or "I really love the color of her hair," or "Oh, yuck, it's raining." Now, you might say those aren't judgments, they are observations. On closer inspection, notice that each of these statements probably carried with it a level of approval or disapproval, which is what makes them judgments. Observations have no emotional charge -- no personal vote for or against what is being seen or experienced. For example, "It's raining. I'll get an umbrella," has no charge.
Snap judgments are a form of positional thinking -- right/wrong, good/bad, desirable/undesirable. Energetically, each time we make one of these judgments, we are either accepting or rejecting someone or something. When the vote is positive, there is no harm unless it occurs in a relationship where one person's sense of self-worth is dependent upon the approval of the other. When snap judgments are negative, they are a form of emotional pollution and depending on the intensity of the judgment, they can impart psychic violence. For example, just recently, I was with a friend and her husband. She did a few things that annoyed him. While I understood why he was perturbed, I was shocked by the vehemence of his verbal reaction to her. I literally felt my body automatically contract in fear, and his remarks were not even directed at me.
Whether spoken or not, snap judgments have a powerful influence on us and the emotional environment we share. Psychologists and linguists have estimated that about 80 percent of communication is nonverbal, with one UCLA study finding that as much as 93 percent of communication is dictated by nonverbal factors.
Energetically, imagine how much damage all these judgments are doing to people. Consider the overweight man. Don't you think he knows or feels that people are judging him? What would it be like for him if he received an overwhelming amount of compassion rather than judgment? Do you think he would notice the difference?
For many, judgment is a way of life. Did you ever meet one of those people who thinks he or she is always right? They can be very convincing and so emphatic that it can be disarming to stand in a different point of view. Even without an audience, we can be so used to our own points of view that anything or anyone who doesn't agree with us can be immediately seen to be false and be rejected like a knee-jerk reaction, without consideration of possible merit.
Imagine what might happen if we all started to hold ourselves accountable for the impact our snap judgments have on others. What if my friend's husband observed her behavior with more neutrality and saw the situation as a time when he needed to dig a little deeper to access his love for her rather than thoughtlessly attacking her in front of her friend? We always have kinder options available to us. The trick is having the sense to choose them. This takes practice, but just as snap judgments can become a habitual behavior, so can kindness. We just have to choose to be conscious and responsible for our behavior and practice, practice, practice kinder reactions to each other.
A negative snap judgment carries with it some kind of rejection and punishment. It may simply be the act of pulling ourselves back from the other person, creating separation. Or it can involve the spewing of a lot of negative attitude and lack of cooperation, or fists might fly. The kinder alternative is to establish the habit of reacting with greater neutrality by simply observing what is happening and calmly communicating your concerns and preferences with clarity and kindness. People aren't wrong because they don't agree with you. They just see things differently from their point of view. Cultivate an attitude of curiosity to better understand why others look and behave in ways other than what you prefer. You might be surprised how much compassion you feel when you choose to contribute to a safe emotional environment for everyone.
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Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we absorb a Week 15 in the NFL that grew more intriguing and suspenseful as it unfolded...
* In December, there are no ugly wins.The entire month, the denouement of the NFL’s regular season, is a slog as the injuries mount, the weather grows bitter, and the pressure cooker of a playoff race intensifies with each passing week. It’s not about looks, it’s about getting the W in the books. Case closed.
So grade Pittsburgh’s gritty 24-20 win at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday any way you want, on a curve or otherwise. But it goes down as a beauty of a win, and a vital one at that for a Steelers team that has consistently flashed more resilience and determination this season than true domination.“Yeah, man, it wasn’t pretty, but at this time of year, any way works,’’ said Steelers veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons via the phone, just after his late-third quarter interception provided one of the turning points in Pittsburgh’s fifth consecutive victory. “At this point, it’s not the beginning, it’s how you finish things. We didn’t start the game the way we wanted to, but we really finished.’’
And because of it, the Bengals (5-8-1) are finished, eliminated from the playoff race and facing the stark reality of no postseason action for the first time since 2010. The Steelers (9-5) ensured that scenario by storming back from deficits of 17-3 and 20-6 in another smash-mouth edition of this series, scoring the game’s final 18 points to put themselves on the cusp of another AFC North title, their second in three years.
Not that it’s going to come easily. Nothing much has for Mike Tomlin’s injury-addled and streaky club this year. But here the Steelers are, facing the neat and tidy prospect of owning a one-game lead over 8-6 Baltimore, with the Ravens headed to Heinz Field for a Christmas Day showdown to determine the AFC North next Sunday afternoon. The Steelers will clinch with a win, while the Ravens must win both in Pittsburgh and again in Week 17 at Cincinnati.
When the Steelers were sitting 4-5 through 10 weeks of the season, with four consecutive losses and a host of questions, the playoff picture was anything but this crystal clear. But these Steelers are survivors, and in an AFC that seemingly can’t determine which team might be capable of stepping up and challenging top-seeded New England (12-2) for supremacy in January, there’s at least the hope that Pittsburgh is starting to measure up to that task.
“I feel like anything is possible,’’ Timmons said, after watching Steelers kicker Chris Boswell nail a club-record-tying six field goals before Pittsburgh finally reached the end zone against Cincinnati. “We’re in control and we’re just out there trying to have fun and enjoy it at this time of the year. What we did today was typical Steelers ball. That’s just what we do. We’ve been doing it for decades. That’s what we live by, die by.
“We do have that bend but don’t break attitude. And once we stop bending and just start breaking everyone else, that’s when we’re going to really start seeing our true potential.’’
Consider the rest of the AFC warned. Read
* Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Bengals couldn’t put away the Steelers at home, despite being in control against their arch rivals for most of the game. In some ways, it was an echo of last January’s epic first-round flag-fest of a playoff meltdown by Cincinnati against visiting Pittsburgh. Right down to the foolhardiness of Bengals running back Jeremy Hill trying to mess with the Steelers’ “Terrible Towel’’ mojo in the course of an end zone celebration.
This time the Bengals blew a 20-6 second-quarter lead and did so amid a flurry of penalties and patented Cincinnati self-destruction. Marvin Lewis’s undisciplined defense drew four flags on one fourth-quarter Steelers drive alone, losing to Pittsburgh for the seventh time in eight tries at home. Same old, same old.
I’m never sure what Bengals owner Mike Brown is thinking, but this season’s disappointment — after five one-and-done playoff trips in a row — should provide him plenty of reason to make a coaching change and end the Lewis era after 14 years. Lewis is 117-108-3 with Cincinnati, with seven playoff berths, and that sets a high standard for Bengals coaches. But getting Cincinnati to the next level still seems well beyond Lewis’s grasp. Patience can be admirable, but it’s past time for a change, Mike. Read
* That was a pretty damaging loss for the Chiefs, who have suddenly dropped a pair of home games at Arrowhead in the span of a month, falling to both Tampa Bay (Week 12) and Tennessee — two up-and-coming clubs that picked 1-2 in the draft as recently as last year. Kansas City led the Titans 14-0 early on, but squandered two golden opportunities in the red zone without scoring, and the 19-17 loss in frigid conditions might wind up costing them the AFC West title and/or a first-round bye.
The Chiefs (10-4) are a quality team and a chic pick to make some noise in the AFC playoffs. But quarterback Alex Smith’s play still gives you pause at times, and he absolutely can’t throw the type of killer end zone interception that he tossed Sunday to Tennessee’s LeShaun Sims and get away with it January. Read
* The Chiefs finding a way to lose — on ex-Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop’s massively clutch 53-yard field goal at the gun no less — got Titans coach Mike Mularkey off the hook in Tennessee’s comeback win. Mularkey opted to go for a questionable two-point conversion with his team down 17-16 and 3:12 left to play, and the Titans didn’t even come close to converting on the Marcus Mariota pass.
That failure could have ultimately been the game-deciding play, and kept the Titans from making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. But Mariota came through again with a gutsy late-game drive, and Succop played the hero, after first missing short from 53 yards on a kick negated by an Andy Reid icing timeout. (It wasn’t cold enough in K.C., he had to ice the kicker?).
If the Titans (8-6) can win at 2-12 Jacksonville next week, it’ll assure them of no worse than playing for the AFC South title at home against defending champion Houston in Week 17. I didn’t like Mularkey’s decision to potentially put his team’s entire season on one play, when he didn’t have to, but it worked out. In the NFL, as in the rest of life, the winners get to write the history. Read
* The Texans (8-6) were winners in Week 15 as well, although it probably didn’t feel like it, given that they had to admit their much-ballyhooed Brock Osweiler signing in free agency wasn’t the masterstroke they assumed. Shocking, I know. For a while there against the Jaguars, the Texans’ red jerseys matched the color of their embarrassed faces.
Houston coach Bill O’Brien surrendered to what his eyes were telling him and benched Osweiler in the first half, with his team trailing 13-0 to Jacksonville. Texans backup Tom Savage entered and proceeded to throw for an impressive 260 yards, leading Houston to a crucial 21-20 win and ending the Jaguars’ Gus Bradley coaching era at 14-48 (he was fired by Jacksonville owner Shad Kahn after the game, in the NFL’s version of a mercy killing).
O’Brien said he hasn’t decided who will start next week at home against visiting Cincinnati on Christmas Eve, but my money is on Savage, after hearing the Texans’ frustrated fans give Savage a loud, standing ovation upon entering the game. No nuance there. The team’s followers have clearly made up their mind about Osweiler. O’Brien probably has, too.
Brock, we hardly knew ye. Somewhere John Elway is smirking. Read
* Full disclosure: The Giants have vividly proven me wrong before with their patented late-season hot streaks and playoff runs (Patriots fans reading this just involuntarily flinched). But I don’t see this year’s edition of the Big Blue being all that dangerous if it reaches the playoffs, even after Sunday’s important 16-7 conquest of visiting Detroit lifted New York to 10-4 and put the playoffs within sight.
The defense is plenty good enough to hold its own in January. That’s obvious. And yes, defense wins championships they tell me. But Ben McAdoo’s offense is basically built around the idea of getting Odell Beckham Jr. the ball, and hoping something special happens. And I’m not even exaggerating. That’s it. It’s a one-page playbook. But in January, that’s not enough.
Kudos to the Giants for getting to at least 10 wins in the regular season for the first time since 2010, the year before Tom Coughlin’s guys won a second ring. I picked them to make the playoffs, but not with perhaps 11 or 12 wins. Still, New York needs more offense to deal with the likes of Seattle, Atlanta and Green Bay in a potential playoff matchup. OBJ’s one-handed catches are fun to collect, but the Giants can’t be a one-man show on offense.Read
* Ravens at Steelers next week, with a division title on the line, makes for a really sweet Christmas centerpiece next Sunday, in the late afternoon time slot. But Baltimore will be very much the unwanted holiday guest at Heinz Field. The Ravens have owned Pittsburgh of late, winning four in a row in the series, six out of seven, and nine of 12 dating to 2011. Baltimore beat visiting Pittsburgh 21-14 in Week 9, and if John Harbaugh’s club can sweep the Steelers, it’ll put the Ravens in position to win the division with a victory at Cincinnati in Week 17.
Baltimore squeaked out a 27-26 home win against a plucky Eagles team on Sunday, when Philly rookie head coach Doug Pederson went all Mike Mularkey and tried a game-deciding two-point conversion that was batted down in the final seconds, rather than opt for a point-after and overtime. With nothing left to lose this season, I get where the 5-9 Eagles were coming from. The NFL certainly wins with Ravens-Steelers on tap next week, because it’s still one of the league’s glamor rivalries. Read
* You have to like where the Packers are these days, starting to make their move like a horse on the outside and gaining ferociously on the field. On a day in which Green Bay somehow blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead at frosty Soldier Field in Chicago, it’s still apparent that things are falling to place for Mike McCarthy’s puzzling team. Once 4-6, they’re 8-6 and two-thirds of the way towards running that table that quarterback Aaron Rodgers talked of so confidently in November.
The rest of the division all lost in Week 15, and now the Packers trail Detroit (9-5) by just one game, with the ability to catch and pass the Lions in Week 17 at Ford Field. Green Bay outlasted the Bears 30-27, rushing for a season-high 226 yards, but it was another piece of Rodgers last-minute magic that we’ll remember about this game. His 60-yard desperation heave to Jordy Nelson on 3rd and 11 set up the game-winning 32-yard Mason Crosby field goal at the final gun, and brought back memories of No. 12’s Hail Mary theatrics of 2015.
The NFC North standings say the Lions are still in the lead and the Packers still trail. But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like Green Bay is on its way.Read
* What got into the Colts? I didn’t see their 34-6 road beatdown of the Vikings coming in any way, shape or form. Indianapolis was up 27-0 at halftime and then understanding got bored with the proceedings. If Adrian Peterson’s return from knee surgery was supposed to spark the struggling Vikings, it’ll have to be some time in 2017.
If Indianapolis had been capable of playing the whole season as it did against Minnesota, it would have clinched the AFC South crown in late October. Then again, the opponent was the Vikings, and no NFL team has been a bigger enigma this season than The Purple. Where they really 5-0 and the league’s last undefeated team at one point, or am I confused by all strangeness we’ve seen in every direction in 2016?
The Vikings have had serious challenges to contend with, without a doubt. But boy did they come apart at the seams like a cheap suit once the unraveling began. I thought this was a tough-minded team in the image of their tough-minded coach, Mike Zimmer. But I was misinformed. The Vikings raised the flag on this season on Sunday against the Colts. Read