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One of my favorite quotes from Connie Castro Jackson is, “We aren’t here to judge another’s journey but to let our judgments show us what needs to be cleansed in ourselves.”

Whoa, does that hit me between the eyes. I have story.

As a first-year teacher, I believed in dressing carefully to set an example for the students. I matched and accessorized, evidently thinking I was doing the right thing. Across the breezeway from me, a seasoned teacher regularly dressed in jeans and loose shirts. She frequently tossed on an apron sporting a kid friendly picture or saying. The more I watched her, the less I was appalled and the more I admired.

I had the opportunity to combine classes with her on Fridays. I don’t think she ever sensed that I was learning from her, as she was too intent on the little people in her orbit. She sat on the floor or a short chair, looking the students in the eye. She was seeing each of them thoroughly while making sure they were understanding the lesson. Always with a smiling face and quick with a pat on the shoulder. If she walked away with white glue puddles or paint splotches on her attire, she didn’t seem to notice. Her students were engaged and thriving. I saw the kids look at her with trust and respect in their eyes.

From then on, I wore only comfortable, washables. I sat on the floor with the kids helping with projects and artwork. I didn’t flinch when within a week a repurposed plastic yogurt cup filled with deep purple paint landed in my lap. I reacted with an “oops” and a smile and saw the same look of respect and trust. I myself felt seen. A priceless gift.

The fundamental lesson for me was, of course, learning not to judge but to see what needed to be changed in myself.

I'm not surprised to learn that our brains click off the moment we adopt a judgmental attitude. We literally can't think of another thing. Our brains are like a train stopped in its tracks. Only when we stop and switch off that judgment key do the higher functions of our brains fire up again.

As you move more deeply into this autumn season, this time of letting go so that renewal can begin again, ask yourself what you hold in judgment--and why? Consider your neighbor, your spouse, that homeless person, and ask yourself: what will happen if I step back and really see them?

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