A small victory – I didn’t judge anyone yesterday. In fact, I think I’m doing pretty well today too.

I have always struggled with judging other people.

Not only on the big issues – religion, politics, life style – but also on the really small tiny ones – their clothes, their vacations, how their children are doing.

It may be my worst habit (though there is some stiff competition).

The judging happens in a moment. In a flash, someone will walk into the room and I’ll come to a snap judgment.

Two things about my judging:

1. It is never positive about the other person
2. It doesn’t have any purpose or effect in the world, other than to knock the other person down a bit (and build me up as a consequence). My judgments are completely self-serving.

I can’t stand myself when I judge others. I feel so small and mean-hearted. Yet I also can’t seem to stop the judgments from occurring. They pop up before I can get my hand out of my pocket to squash them.

I have found that shul is a great place for snap judgments. It provides so many opportunities for me to judge others.

• He davens so loudly, does he think I’m deaf?
• Why is he looking around instead of facing forward?
• Who does he think he is to daven so slowly?

Where do these judgments come from?

Some of them come from my insecurities – weight, off-key singing, immigrant-stuff, and financial insecurity.

But I realize now that my judging does not emerge from any of my particular “stuff”. The motivating for my judging is deeper than any specific idiosyncrasies – it’s a spiritual disorder.

At core it comes from a lack of belief that God created me with my own uniqueness. I don’t fully believe in my own soul.

I once had a teacher who said something that almost knocked me off my chair. He said, “God made me smart. And God made me stupid. I’m smart in the things that I need to be smart in. And I’m stupid in the things that I need to be stupid in. God made me just right for me to be me.”

So yesterday I had a small victory.

The guy who davenned loudly – I was happy for him to find his own way.
The guy who looked around – I was happy for him to see other people.
The guy who davenned slowly – I appreciated his focus.

And I felt the difference.

I’m not exactly sure what helped me yesterday. Maybe it’s a result of my morning meditation practice. Maybe it’s the result of Ayeka and focusing on serving other people. Maybe it’s just growing old.

But I know for myself that as a work-in-progress it is easy to focus on the work that needs to be done rather than on the progress that’s being made.

My brother-in-law is wont to say: “Just declare victory and go to bed.” Yesterday was a small victory. I think its time for a nap.