When we look at various spiritual paths – especially those that espouse “love and light” – we are discouraged from judging others. Some even tell us to “detox” from judgment. Could this reaction towards judging others – or judging ourselves – be a form of spiritual bypassing?
This week I bring on guest Anne Ruthmann to discuss this topic. We explore our own personal experiences with the j-word and the importance of understanding and responding vs reacting. Anne also shares how having healthy internal boundaries can transform judgment from a trap and into a tool we can use to uncover issues that we need to work on.
About This Week’s Guest:
Anne Ruthmann is a reiki master energy healer and teacher, as well as a business consultant for freelancers and creatives. Her passion is in helping people create a more freeing and abundant life to support their creativity and ability to give back to the world.
[Jessica Karels]: Glad to have you here today, Anne.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Thank you so much for having me, and thank you so much for hosting this podcast. It's so much work and I'm so glad you're doing it.
[Jessica Karels]: I'm super excited to be able to share this with our audience today. I think this is a very relevant topic. But before we jump right in, I'm curious - what has been your spiritual path up to this point?
[Anne Ruthmann]: I think I ran through all of my bad karma early in life; doing all the bad things, feeling the repercussion of it, and eventually getting to a point where I was like, "This seems ridiculous to keep running on this ferris wheel of bad things, maybe I should try and change my ways". I think it was somewhere in my twenties I started becoming a little more mindful about my actions, my words, how I carried myself in the world, and what the repercussions of that was.
[Anne Ruthmann]: When I set myself on a path of "What would you attempt if you could not fail?" - actually gave a TED talk about this a few years ago - that really helped me regain control of my life and remember that I am the keeper of this life that I have. This body that I have.
[Anne Ruthmann]: That set me on a whole bunch of spiritual journeys. Everything from learning how to meditate in Australia, to learning Reiki as a self-care practice and as a healing practice that can be shared with others, to also being a business owner. I think being a business owner is actually a huge part of spiritual development and self-development and I've been doing that for the last fifteen years or so. So, yeah, that's a little like short blurb about all of it.
[Jessica Karels]: Quite a bit of it is like having the fun in the beginning and then throwing yourself in the deep end. I did not know that you did a TED talk. That's pretty amazing.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Yeah, it was a really cathartic thing because I was talking to my alma mater about why I did not use my degree, and the professors were still there cheering me on. So that was fabulous.
[Jessica Karels]: That's always a good thing. The topic we wanted to talk about today - judging others - has come up across many spiritual paths as something we're encouraged to avoid, even "detox" from. There's actually a book out there called the "Judgment Detox". Can judging others actually be used for good?
[Anne Ruthmann]: Yeah, I think that there's a few different forms of judgment. We were kind of talking about this a little bit before the interview: the judgment we have toward others, the judgment we have toward ourselves, and the judgment that we feel from others.
[Anne Ruthmann]: I think that when we can really step back and examine this judgment. It is one of the most amazing teachers that we have for spiritual development because it can happen at any point in the day. You don't have to take a class. You just have to be really mindful of the judgments that you know that occur, what the triggers are that caused the judgments and then where we take it from there.
[Jessica Karels]: You brought up the judgments we feel cast towards us. How can we use those for growth?
[Anne Ruthmann]: I have a really great example that happened just yesterday and I love how these things come up, right before we're going to do talk about it.
[Jessica Karels]: I know, right?
[Anne Ruthmann]: I was like, "Oh, yeah, thanks for the delivery. Kind of hurt a little bit, but let's keep going".
[Jessica Karels]: I've had that as well since I started doing these interviews. Right before the topic gets brought up, a life event goes on, and I'm like, "Oh, I can't talk about it, but it's making you aware of what's going on".
[Anne Ruthmann]: Yeah. Yesterday was something I think that anyone who participates in online groups or online communities has experienced at some point in time unless they are super careful with their words and they have covered every possible base in order to make sure nobody is offended or nobody misinterprets what they say. Well, I would say I'm probably not that person. I probably am a little more free with my speech. I'm a little more carefree.
[Anne Ruthmann]: I was writing a story about my own life and it was based on a incident I had when I was a child; when I was scared about something. I was telling this story from the perspective of being a child who was scared, but it was actually really about some kind of insight that I had into how we have helpers that we can't see. Anyway, so I write this story out, and I think it's a great story to tell.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Then I get somebody who's like, "Oh my gosh, you need to take the the wheels away from the person who you were in the car with, and you need to make sure that persons not on the road anywhere," because they were responding to the fear that I had as a child. The first person responded that way and I was like, "Okay, they were triggered. Obviously, there's something there that they're wrestling with, and they're kind of like, sending out what they consider to be concerned, but also judgment on how that was handled". I was like, okay, that's fine. Then a second one, and then a third one, and I was like, "Oh shit". Sorry.
[Jessica Karels]: That's okay. You could swear here.
[Anne Ruthmann]: I was like, "Oh no, more than one person is being triggered. Something I wrote is super triggering". The judgment is just raining down right now. They're calling it concern, but it's also a lot of judgment as well. I was like, "Well, what are my options?" I could delete this post and then remove the story entirely, but I thought it was valuable enough for the community. I could edit this post and put in all the safety caveats that would help defuse some of the things that have been triggering about what I was sharing.
[Anne Ruthmann]: After enough people responded - and then I was trying to handle their their concern and their judgment as well. Like, "Hey guys, no this person really doesn't need to have this". It's like they were trying to call Child Protective Services on somebody who is a healthy 35 year old adult who lived - I mean, I was a child and now I'm the healthy adult, and nothing actually happened. I was just sharing that there was a fear in childhood, but I didn't share everything: like how safe everything was how it was handled along the way. So, I added all those caveats back in.
[Anne Ruthmann]: I was like, "Man, wow, okay. This was a moment of heavy judgment". It gave me a chance to look at how was I using my words that created fear. I could see. I could look back I was like, "Okay, well, the thing that's coming down is a lot of fear and a lot of concern and a lot of judgment about what should have been done or what wasn't handled properly". I could look at where did I create the fear and how could I mitigate that fear.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Then I also looked at how people were responding and I was able to say, "Wait a minute, did I really act wrongly in this situation? Did I really act as carelessly as they're interpreting, or is this judgment something that is being triggered by a prior experience they have?" They don't have the full story. They obviously can't respond to the full spectrum of what happened.
[Anne Ruthmann]: It was a chance for me to examine myself as well. Was I really being careless? Did this person really need to go on? In the end, I'm like, "No, they didn't. Actually, they were far safer than anybody else who didn't have the same experiences". That was a great moment to be like: oh, they're being triggered. I'm being triggered by their trigger. Let's unwind all of this and try and look at what can I do better? Where's that perception going wrong? Where's the judgment turning into all sorts of other things? So that was a really great example for me on feeling the judgment from someone else and then figuring how I could do better in that moment.
[Jessica Karels]: Yeah, in a lot of those situations where something impacts another person emotionally, we can't really turn off their emotions. We can't really control their reactions - as much as we may want to because it would be a lot easier for us - but we can learn to be empathetic towards what may have spurred on their reaction and learn how to try and prevent it from happening again. Whether by being very mindful and careful what we say around that or even potentially - you did not mention this option - engaging them with, "Okay, what is it about what was said that was off-putting or upsetting? I think that other part is just as important because we live in a society nowadays where people are being more open about their feelings and about their injuries. They're being more vocal about it, but we're not seeing that call for self-reflection. Beyond the initial response, usually the onus is put on whoever is sharing - whoever's providing, providing the information, whoever is putting the energy out into the world - to try and take into account all these various things, and try and act on a highly preventative measure, which can be impossible at times.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Totally. I think what was happening was a judgment was being made, and then a directive was being cast, but a question was never made. That was where it also helped me reflect on myself. When I have a trigger or a judgment, rather than jumping to my reaction, I could hask a question for clarity. Even as the person who shared, I could have asked the question around assumptions like, "Oh, you wrote this, which leads me to believe you may be assuming this. Is that true or accurate?" That's tricky because if someone's in anger or someone's in that really hot place, they may feel triggered again. So yeah, it's a really touchy area. It takes a lot of thinking through like: what's really going on here? If there's trauma being triggered, how do you - I can't stop someone else's trauma. I can't stop someone else's trigger, but how can I respond in a way that brings things back to a good place? I don't know that I actually accomplish that for a couple hours until after - maybe I just edit the story so that it wouldn't happen again. It's a learning experience, right? It's an opportunity in that moment of feeling judged to look at: how could this situation been improved? Sometimes we don't get the headspace to do that. That's why we have to create those moments of space for ourselves, especially after we have really difficult conversations or really difficult meetings. We have to create the space to really reflect on things.
[Jessica Karels]: Exactly. Even that process of deciding how to proceed - and how to approach those who are judging you - can be an act of judgment in and of itself. As you were saying, you're evaluating the situation, trying to determine: are they reacting from a place of anger? A place a trauma? Heck it could be a place of trolling. It's trying to decipher what is the underlying reason. Even if we go in with the best intention, it can go awry. That's wheres again, we have to be able to discern; are we doing the right thing for us going forward versus making assumptions based on the other person?
[Anne Ruthmann]: Right, right. Yeah. And we have to be open to whatever the outcome is so we can keep learning.
[Jessica Karels]: Exactly. You did bring up an important point that if we are the ones on the receiving end - when we're feeling that emotional upheaval by something said - it is great to have that level of self-awareness to pause, reflect, and then ask. Unfortunately, not everyone has that skill set yet, but I think the more of us who do it, the more people see it modeled, the more people might actually start to latch on to that tactic.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Right. I always think it's interesting how - and this I would say is maybe a Western problem - in some ways is that, you know, we have a lot of debate clubs in schools, but we don't have a lot of negotiation clubs. I think as a society, we would benefit more from negotiation clubs than from debate clubs.
[Jessica Karels]: The idea behind the debate clubs was to encourage fact checking, which now is a lost art. Debate is about being able to concisely provide the facts backing your argument, but not all situations are win-lose black and white. It's a matter of seeing nuance or being willing to compromise on what is acceptable versus not.
[Jessica Karels]: Self judgment: that is a pretty tricky topic.
[Anne Ruthmann]: I don't know if I dodged the self-judgment bullet, or if it's been so long that I've exercised it to the nth degree. I'm actually a little more removed from the self-judgment cycle than I used to be. I do remember the times when I was in it, and there was a lot of self-consciousness in that space. There was a lot of insecurity in that space. There was a lot of questioning of whether what I was doing was right and who determined what was right.
[Anne Ruthmann]: I didn't necessarily know what was right at the time, and so there was a lot of questioning around: am I right? Am I doing the right thing? Am I acting in the best way? All that insecurity really build up to judging myself, thinking that I wasn't doing things right, or leaning on mentors who didn't even have the best answers for me because I didn't know how to navigate my own internal compass.Then I relied on what they believed was right.
[Anne Ruthmann]: For example, I wanted to work on Broadway as I was graduating high school, but I was graduating high school in blue-collar Michigan. There weren't a lot of clear pathways between where I was and where I wanted to go, and there weren't a lot of people who had experience navigating people to that next step. I didn't really have a lot of good mentors in that space. What I had instead were people who are like, "That's nice. That's a great hobby. When you live in this area, there really aren't many opportunities for that, so what are you going to do for work instead?"
[Anne Ruthmann]: So then, I took on the mentor's mentality and I thought, "Well shoot, if all these smart mentors are telling me this, maybe I should reconsider this dream or this path that I have and really just hunker down and do the safe thing". I did that for a while, and it did not make my soul happy. I still learned I still experienced a lot of good things. It still led to a path of self-fulfillment. It was one of those times where - because I didn't have an internal compass that helped me really understand what was good or right for me - I was relying on the compases of other people around me and they weren't necessarily on the same path or they weren't necessarily aligned with what I wanted. That was an interesting thing. Maybe you have some examples that are even more rich and your experience you could share.
[Jessica Karels]: Oh my gosh, I think a lot of it was trying to navigate the space as I've been developing my own business. I like my nine-to-five job; mostly the security but also the impact. I like geeking out with a lot of tech stuff, and I have a lot of autonomy and freedom there. While it can be a little bit frustrating at times, I have so much freedom and so many benefits there that I don't feel called to completely ditch that. Now that may not always be the case. I'm open to that changing the future.
[Jessica Karels]: Just about every mentor I've had when it comes to business, their pitches typically are "leave your nine-to-five job, go and do this passion thing full-time". I'm looking at this going, "How can I mesh the two?" cuz for me being able to maintain some semblence of structure from the nine-to-five job helps me feel more connected with the people that I wants to reach out to.
[Jessica Karels]: If I was to completely detach and say, "I am financially independent. I am making six, seven figures, doing all these cool things," it can be hard for people to relate to. But, if I'm saying, "Yeah, I'm making this much, but part of it is I have this job where I'm doing a lot of good in the world, and then I'm also doing this and I'm successful," that raises eyebrows. It shows I am willing to follow my own path where most other people would say pick one or the other.
[Jessica Karels]: Right? Yes, I hear you on that.
[Jessica Karels]: I think that's a big one, at least for me. Being able to walk in that in-between space is a huge thing that I've had to learn to get beyond, and to price my goods as if that was my only job, versus, "Oh, this is a thing I do part time". That's a money mindset that I think a lot of beginning entrepreneurs struggle with because at that point it is the side hustle because they don't have the full time to contribute to it. But to really move forward - get that income to get the resources to get more income, so you can finally pull away if you want to - you have to price yourself as if this is your only thing you are doing.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Absolutely, and I wrote a book about that!
[Jessica Karels]: Wow, I'm just subconsciously plugging your stuff!
[Anne Ruthmann]: It's hilarious.
[Jessica Karels]: We've been going on a bit. If any of our listeners are new to the topic of approaching judgment from a positive upleveling manner, what advice would you give them?
[Anne Ruthmann]: I would say every judgment we feel or we, I mean - recognizing the judgment we cast at other people - I don't know if that's harder or easier for people. I think sometimes it's harder because it might happen so quickly and so easily.
[Anne Ruthmann]: We have to start from a place where we feel judged, and it doesn't feel good, right? It feels icky. So I think if we can just start to examine judgment as this thing that arises out of a set of assumptions, or out of a set of prior experiences, then we can use that as a tap into something in ourselves that needs a little more attention. Maybe the attention that we give it is just to become aware of it, and just to become aware of something that we hold within ourselves as something we feel we need to do, or we need to respond to, or something that taps into a really icky emotional place for us. Those are such rich places to dig in, find some little gems in the ground, pull them out, examine them, and look at what they can reveal for us.
[Anne Ruthmann]: I think that when we leave these things unquestioned and unexamined we tend to perpetuate a particular set of karma or a particular set of experiences that make it hard to really move to the next step or the next level in our self-development or our spiritual development. When we can dig in and clear out that path that arises in the space of judgment, we actually can detach from more situations in a way that's compassionate by allowing us to have our own boundaries around what we think it's good for us and allowing other people to have boundaries around what they think is good for them without feeling like they need to do it our way or we need to do it their way. I think that when we can really get into that, we can we can really get to that next step. I don't think that it's ever done. I think we're always going to experience some new things and be like, "I didn't realize I still had that thing hiding out in my psyche or hiding out my experience, but here is! Once again revealing for me something that I can work on!"
[Jessica Karels]: Isn't that always the case though?
[Anne Ruthmann]: Yeah, yeah, totally. Oh, yeah. I'll be caught off guard like this. I was totally caught off guard by an experience with somebody I love and I was like, "Aw man, I just felt really icky", and now I need to figure out where I'm at with that and how I can regain my energetic space around it without being entangled in something that makes me carry anger and makes carry frustration, which makes it difficult to do anything creative. I need a really clear space to be a creative person, and I can't be weighed down by anger, frustration, or judgment in order to do a lot of creative work. Although, there are some people I think, who may be inspired by judgment to make creative work, so that can work for them too, and if they examine it, then maybe they can even create more work out of it. I don't think that it's the same for everybody, but I do think that just learning how to dig in and examine it actually is going make a little more interesting stuff in our life than not examining it.
[Jessica Karels]: Yeah, the self-examination, introspection, and then then taking action - all good things for someone who's starting off to do in order to uplevel their own inner game.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Yeah, totally.
[Jessica Karels]: Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your knowledge about using the judgment of others, or us being judged,or self judgment as a way to uplevel our inner game.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Thank you. Thank you for hosting this podcast.
[Jessica Karels]: If someone wanted to connect with you, how could they get in touch?
[Anne Ruthmann]: If they are interested in any intuitive coaching or spiritual coaching, or Reiki distance healing sessions, they can go to abundantsphere.com in order to see what services are available or just to reach out with a message and ask any questions they'd like for clarification. That's probably the best way to reach me. You can also find me at "anneruthmann" pretty much on all the social media channels.
[Jessica Karels]: Don't worry, listeners, if you're trying to keep up with the spelling. We're going to include these in the show notes.
[Anne Ruthmann]: Great.
- What Would You Attempt If You Knew You Could Not Fail? (Anne Ruthmann | TEDxOaklandUniversity)
- Abundant Sphere (Anne’s website)
- Abundant Sphere on Facebook
- Follow Anne Ruthmann on Instagram
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