You may be thinking, what’s with this title? I know “boomerang judgement” may sound weird to you, but hear me out! This is an important principle.

Within Byron Katie’s coaching and healing regimen, which she calls The Work, she has a worksheet called “Judge Your Neighbor” where the coachee would describe a bothersome, annoying, or otherwise disturbing aspect of a close associate. For example, a coachee might write “Paul never listens” on their worksheet. (Paul may be their colleague, their student, their own child, or their spouse; everyone has a Paul in their life.) Afterward, the exercise asks for the coachee to write introspective inversions of the judgement. One might follow up the statement “Paul never listens” with “I never listen,” “I never listen to Paul,” “Paul DOES listen,” or “HOW does Paul listen?”, et cetera.

A brain going about its normal business (seek pleasure, avoid pain, and maximize efficiency in doing both) without conscious guidance is unwilling to approach difficult emotions with nuance, and so these inverted statements may all be true but lie suffocated beneath the weight of “Paul never listens.” If we throw out a judgement, we must accept the possibility of a return, just like a boomerang returning after being thrown.

Honest introspection is painful for the ego; we tend to find that if someone else’s actions bother us, it’s because we see similar behavior within ourselves. Fortunately, if I stop to think and honestly ask myself whether I’m also guilty of the thing I dislike in another person, then sometimes I learn that I am! It’s both humbling and empowering.

Knowing that I’m both flawed and awesome (as is everyone) is an important lesson; it helps me extend grace and compassion to other people when they do things I don’t like, and it helps me have empathy for myself as I try to improve myself every day.

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