In today’s increasingly complex and divisive world, making decisions appears to be more difficult than ever. There seem to be so many shades of gray, that in order to maintain any kind of guiding moral/ethical code, people are resorting to extreme left or extreme right thinking. This consciousness of polarization is dominating human interaction, and consequently every day life is characterized by mistrust, enmity, and violence on microcosmic and macrocosmic scales. Most efforts to address this polarization are misdirected and only widen rather than narrow the chasm between peoples. Attempts to threaten, humiliate and oppress the opposite only harden resistance. If this dynamic trajectory continues, the prospects for humanity’s survival grow graver with each passing day.
There is one powerful human tendency accelerating this drift toward polarization. Dr. Thomas Hora in his book Beyond the Dream named this tendency self-confirmatory ideation which, simply put, means prejudice. Prejudice has two components: cognitive/emotional and behavioral. The cognitive/emotional component is having a fixed mindset to prejudge. The behavioral component is actively seeking information and experiences in order to confirm the prejudgement followed by acting in discriminatory, oppressive, and harmful ways to express those prejudgments. Consequently, prejudiced people become more and more prejudiced the longer they continue exposing themselves only to sources that confirm their beliefs. Right-wing thinkers only read, watch, or listen to right-wing media. Left-wing thinkers only read, watch, or listen to left-wing media. They also seek and associate only with people who think as they do.
So, is prejudice the only mistake we make? Yes, but there are two core ego beliefs that energize prejudice and without them, prejudice could not exist. Most likely, you are not fully aware of these beliefs, but I can assure you, they are in your consciousness. The beliefs are: 1) I am a separate individual with separate, competing wants and needs, and 2) there are limited resources for satisfying my wants and needs.
Prejudice is an expression of judgment. I have written about judgment from a different perspective in another article, “The Illusion of Objectivity..” but here I want to show you how these two beliefs lead to judgment. Maybe you believe you make many different mistakes (or none at all!), but the truth is it is only one. The good news is if there is only one mistake, there is only one correction.
The one mistake you make is judging everything you perceive based on the above beliefs, and the reason is both beliefs are invalid (false). Nothing truthful, harmonizing, enhancing, or unifying can be built upon falsity. How do you know a belief is invalid? By looking at the consequences of believing it. If a belief spawns prejudice, strife, oppression, tyranny, hatred, war, injustice, and fear, it cannot be true. If a belief energizes compassion, justice, harmony, peace, joy, acceptance, and kindness, it is valid.
The reason these beliefs are so systemic is if you believe them, you will judge others and feel justified in imposing any or all of your judgments on others. This happens because these beliefs create fear-based states of mind. The two most common ones are threat and scarcity.
As an example, I remember the Cabbage Patch Kids insanity back when two of my children were of the age that they wanted the dolls because all of their friends either had one or also wanted one. There was a “shortage” of dolls, and whenever we heard that a new supply of dolls had arrived at Walmart or K-mart or Toys-R-Us, we raced to one of those stores to beat the crowds of parents who were also scrambling to get the dolls for their kids. In the early morning hours, huge crowds of parents were pushing and shoving to be the first to get into these stores and buy the dolls. Nationwide, fights broke out because parents were in scarcity mode and perceived other parents as threats.
More recently, several large regional banks have failed for exactly the same reasons–beliefs in scarcity– “The bank doesn’t have enough money!,” and threat– “I’m going to lose all my money if I don’t withdraw it before everyone else withdraws theirs!”
There is a current phenomenon being promulgated that stems from these two ego beliefs. It is called “replacement theory.” This “theory” is based on the belief that normal white Americans are gradually but systematically and intentionally being replaced by minorities of all kinds–sexual, racial, ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic. “Replaced” means losing jobs, opportunities, rights, and privileges to these nameless but dangerous others. Studies of the backgrounds and belief systems of recent mass murderers in the United States are revealing that a majority of them are acting from their belief in replacement theory along with a whole network of other prejudicial beliefs.
As I mentioned earlier, If there is only one mistake, there is only one correction. The one correction is nonjudgment. Relinquishing judgment may seem impossible, so a starting point is suspending judgment. This means consciously and deliberately choosing to wait and wonder in every situation where you find yourself wanting to judge. To wait and wonder means delaying judgment and wondering what other facts, information, and perspectives are available. This cognitive process is called open-mindedness. Psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman in their pioneering book Character Strengths and Virtues defined open-mindedness as “the willingness to search actively for evidence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available.” They placed open-mindedness as one of the virtues contained in the character strength of wisdom, and A Course in Miracles, my main spiritual text, lists open-mindedness as one of ten characteristics of a “teacher of God” which in psychological terms is an enlightened person.
You might be thinking that exercising judgment is a good thing, that it protects you and guides you. The ego would have you believe this. The opposite is true. Judgment imprisons and misleads you. Have you ever thought about how judgment adversely impacts you personally? It is the source of all your distress, your fractured and/or severed relationships, your frustration, your disappointment, your sense of loss, your guilt, and your anger. Once you truly comprehend the burden of judgment you might gratefully let it go. (However, I will mention here that there is one right use of judgment. I will write about that in my next article–“Set Yourself Free.”)
Do you really want to stop making the same mistake? If your answer is “yes,” consciously start cultivating open-mindedness until it becomes your automatic mental set. Once you reach that point, you will discover you have become a nonprejudicial, accepting, harmonizing, beneficial presence in this world. And once you lay judgment down, you will have peace.