Posted by: WillowSource on 08/31/2017

Tricks of Our Tribes and Navigating Judgment

Tricks of Our Tribes and Navigating Judgment

by Judith Hartke  


“You always were a little different”. My old co-worker looked at me with a straight face, and I wasn't sure what he was trying to say, but I knew exactly what he meant. Different than him. And different than his friends, family, clients, old co-workers and bosses.

That group had always felt like family to me and still does in many ways. I count them as some of the dearest friends and people that I have ever known. What has changed, however, is me. Somewhere along the line, I stepped off the boat we were all on and embarked to captain my own.

There are many sides to all of us and if we are a growing, breathing, life-affirming soul, our true selves slowly emerge as we peel back the layers with age. I realized now in my circles, he might be the one perceived as different. A little too material and not enough ethereal. Conservative, reserved, and guided by more traditional social expectations and beliefs than the people I generally found myself with these days.

Somewhere along the line, I had discovered a world more serving of my own growing spirit, and I realized that what he had likely perceived in me back in those days was a soul bound by convention and never quite comfortable with the fit. For most of my earlier years, I had been “weird” dressed in normal clothing.

As a breath of silence followed his words, I found myself staring back through my third-grade lens. Too quiet, too introspective, not dressed well enough. “Weird”. The kiss of death for aspirations of coolness, and in those days I had constantly flirted with the edges of unconventionality. Fortunately for me, I was a fairly decent artist, and that somehow relegated me to a cool kind of weirdness, but the prospect of great social ruin was never far from my mind. That was many moons ago as they say, and now the dread of banishment holds little power in my life.

With a blink, I was back in the moment and a smile dawned on my face as I realized the gift he was giving me. He was not defining me… he was defining himself, and with that knowledge I could better find common ground on which to meet my old friend. We had always had a fun and quirky kind of friendship, and I treasure my memories of our deep conversations and hilarious work adventures. But years have passed and as our paths diverged, so did much of what had defined us and our friendship.

Humans are deeply social animals and the need to belong is universal. We all prefer to be with people like ourselves. It saves so much energy from constantly having to explain ourselves, monitor what we say and how we say it, and how our beliefs will be received. It can be downright exhausting to spend a lot of time around people who are not of our tribe. It is completely natural to want to belong to a group that reflect beliefs and values similar to our own.

However, groups cannot exist without some sort of contrast serving to define the edges, and those edges are often defined by the level at which another person does not quite fit. Perceiving someone as ‘different’ can re-affirm our belongingness to our own kind, our safety in numbers, our security within the context of the larger group. It can serve a primal need and helps us to define who and what we are. When we perceive someone as different, it is always about ourselves. Judging another does not define them, it defines us.  

The trick in finding a healthy way through our human hard wiring is to recognize which seeds of that ancient part of our human psyche we are sowing in our daily lives. To know if we are cultivating a garden that feeds our soul and continues to expand our horizons, or if we are enabling a crushing mass of weeds growing from deep roots of fear.  How we handle judgment in our lives can propel us to seek out new adventures or consistently drive us into feelings of fear and distrust upon seeing someone not like ourselves. 

In being truly committed to cultivating a garden of abundance, another little trick is to not wait for the bright light of day to discover what we have planted. Seeds of judgment often germinate just below the surface of our minds, and it can be difficult to discern plant from weed until they spring forth in words spoken, actions taken, or we hear it reflected back to us from the mouths of our children. It’s easy to tell ourselves and our children not to negatively judge another. It is much harder to feel it in our soul. To live in such a way that a generosity of understanding oozes from our pores. That harvest cannot be faked.


Like its evil twin judgement, true non-judgment and acceptance will bloom in how we speak, think, shop, parent, what we do for a living and how we vote. It will influence our life choices and life path. It will plant seeds for the next generation to grow, and it will help define how we are remembered. As we find ourselves belonging to a group, at what level we recognize our own level of judgment or non-judgment will re-affirm the beliefs of our pack and serve a greater good, or bring to our corner of the world a more narrow experience of human potential.

For most of us, this delicate dance between the rows of our own gardens is a life-long process of learning, adjustment, and discovery. Some of us will prefer not to take up the challenge, but for those that do, navigating this tricky human tendency is well worth the effort. The old saying “like attracts like" is truly always at work, and in putting forth the effort to cultivate a better garden, we can be assured of the presence of the sweet taste of mutual acceptance and understanding in our lives.


Judith Hartke is the co-founder of WillowSource and founder/owner of WillowLight Center for Wholeness in East Aurora, NY. In addition to working as a BioGenesis Energy Healer , Judy is a Nature and Spirit Artist. In this work, she combines mediumship skills with artistry to capture the images of spirits supporting us, and to relay any messages they wish to communicate.  


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