Humans are quick to judge. We use labels like right and wrong, good and bad. While these are useful in guiding our decisions, at the core of these judgments is an illusory duality. They are not in the world itself, but exist only in our perception of the world.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
– William Shakespeare
Right and wrong is a duality
A duality involves two opposing terms, each of which gets their meaning from the other. When one half of a duality is absent, the remaining word has no meaning.
For example, day and night are defined with reference to each other. ‘Day’ is the time when it is not ‘night’. However, North Pole is in sunshine throughout summer. Day and night lose their meaning here. Other examples of dualities include hot and cold, wet and dry, success and failure, and joy and sorrow.
These dualities are useful, of course. They are just not real, not out there in the world. We use these to define things in relation to one another and thus to make sense of the world, .
Beyond right and wrong
Things that do not require their opposite in order for us to understand them would not count as dualities. These exist independently of anything else and are therefore not illusions.
When you hold your child in your arms, you do not ask what her opposite is. She just is. She is very real, and not an illusion.
However, the joy that fills you as you look down at the child is part of a duality. You suddenly realise that life before this child was joyless because you did not know how joyful life could be until now.
Right and wrong is a dualistic judgment
When you judge that somebody is ‘wrong’, you are engaging in dualistic thinking. He has fallen short of a standard you call ‘good’ and carried out an action that is not the ‘right’ one.
Again, dualistic thinking is not wrong. Sometimes it helps you to define the person you want to be: you may decide you want to be strong instead of weak, brave instead of timid, friendly instead of withdrawn etc. All this is fine.
At another level however, realise that all these judgements at some level are meaningless, because all dualities are not actually real. Once you realise this, you will stop judging others because you start thinking at another level, where comparison makes no sense.
When you stop thinking in a dualistic way, you no longer have to need to fit everything into one of two categories: right or wrong, good or bad. You are more able to see something for what it is, instead of what you think it should be.
Just in case you are now thinking that I am saying that judgment is wrong, I’m not. Because ‘wrong’ itself is already a judgment. I am merely pointing out that one type of thinking – dualistic thinking – lends itself to judgment, whereas not thinking at this level renders judgment meaningless.
The next time you find yourself being judgmental, instead of berating yourself for being ‘bad’ and staying at the level of dualistic thinking, just realise that the whole idea of right and wrong itself is an illusion. Chances are you will smile and feel freer straightaway. Judging less will also help you to love others better.