The Power of the Inner Judge

A few years ago, after a foot injury had kept me inactive for a while, I wanted to lose some weight. Because my body felt like a bowl of jello, I knew I needed to start slowly and get some systematic support while I became more active. Winter was approaching, and I thought it wise to start with indoor activity, since skiing or walking on snow and ice were not options. So I found myself considering joining a health club.

I had tried a gym many years before and had made a clear decision back then that indoor exercise wasn’t for me. For one thing, I didn’t care for the atmosphere of the club I’d joined. As a result, I didn’t follow through and didn’t actually use the membership very much. It felt like a waste of money.

This memory comes to mind now as I reflect on the role my inner Judge has played in my relationship to health clubs. The Judge is the aspect of self that helps me assess, evaluate, and make decisions. When it’s inspired, my Judge supports me in looking at current information, asks thoughtful questions, and allows me to examine and challenge any stories, myths, and assumptions that reside in my head.

In contrast, the wonky Judge loves extremes that give the illusion of clarity. Following my foot injury, I was reluctant to try a club again because my wonky Judge had already made the wide-sweeping generalizations that outdoor exercise was better than indoor exercise and that I didn’t like the atmosphere in clubs. I believed clubs were bad for me, period. I see now that I had reached these broad conclusions based on a short-term membership in one club. Rather than evaluating each available club on its merits, my wonky Judge preferred to keep me locked in an opinion I had formed years before.

I was hesitating about joining another club because of my earlier experience, but I really didn’t see another option at the moment. So I decided to look into the cost of various offerings and to visit a couple of gyms. One of my main criteria was to clarify when and how I could be released from the membership without penalty. I was still clinging to my former experience and wanted an escape clause if necessary.

My inspired Explorer then stepped in to encourage me to ask for tours so that my Judge could evaluate the clubs I visited, study their schedules, and meet the staff. It didn’t take long for me to realize that many of my former judgments might not be accurate. Current information based on my recent research contradicted the old judgments and opinions that had been frozen in time.

In this case, the limits of being outdoors in winter during my recovery process and the desire to become active again were prompting me to allow my inspired Judge to help me move beyond the past and embrace what was available to me in the present. As I explored, I realized that each club had its own atmosphere and I could look for one that suited me. When there was a great deal of information to consider, my inspired Judge also reminded me that confusion often happens just before insight.

An inner Judge that’s wonky thinks life will be easier if we stay frozen in the clarity of black-and-white thinking from the past instead of considering a new idea. It regards uncertainty and ambiguity as enemies. Because it wants to be aligned with the Right Answer and is often seeking perfection, it tries to avoid the unknown at all costs. Simplicity, false clarity, and rigidity of thought exemplify a wonky Judge.

So, if I’m having a knee-jerk reaction to an idea, espousing extremes, responding rigidly, or refusing to consider options to avoid uncertainty, I can see that my wonky Judge is in control. But my inspired Judge has shown me that more than one valid answer is usually possible and that a rainbow of colors between black and white can truly enrich my life. I’m grateful my Judge supported me in choosing a club that has worked well for me these past few years. Having named flexibility, balance, and strength as qualities I want to cultivate in my body, I’ve discovered that my gym membership is making a world of difference.

My wise and skillful judge knows that there are many acceptable answers to any given situation.                                                                                                          Barbara A. Bernard

© Barbara A. Bernard