People work in two basic modes. Mode one is seeing others and being critical of their behavior. The nature of man is to judge. The reason people are judgmental is because EVERYBODY has a certain narrative about life and its myriad of details. We often confuse our perspective with objective reality but that is a big mistake. Our perspective is not necessarily wrong but it is hard to claim absolute truth because there are SEVEN BILLION different perspectives. Our opinions and attitudes are shaped by countless factors [nature, upbringing, cultural norms, experiences etc.] and it is completely impossible and inconceivable that any two people should have exactly the same perspective. So we judge the narrative of others based on our own narrative. Mode two: When it comes to ourselves we are very understanding and accepting. [Except those - and there are many - who can't even accept themselves].
So we look around and don't understand how people can think and act in certain ways while those around us think the same way about us.
To give an example from the political arena: Tens of millions of Americans think that it was INSANE to vote Trump [because HE is insane]. Tens of millions of Americans voted for him and were extremely relieved and even overjoyed when he won. Who is right? Different perspectives. But here there were only two choices. The more choices - the more there is going to be disagreement.
On a more personal level, a highly developed emotional personality [not so common] is able to step outside of himself and view others on their own terms. It is impossible to completely understand another [it is actually impossible to completely understand oneself because of all of the hidden, subconscious factors that go into our thoughts, emotions, deeds etc.] but the task of an empathetic person is to step outside of his own perspective and see it from the viewpoint of the other. It is very hard for people to do this because they are so locked into their way of thinking. It is like when you hear a question in Torah and then you hear an answer. Every time the question arises the answer your heard jumps into your mind and it is hard to think outside that box. We all have brain patterns which are very difficult to change and most people aren't trying to change, because why think in a different and [so one thinks] incorrect way?!
So the first step when judging others is to remember at the outset that they are not me and just because I think a certain way that doesn't mean that it is absolute, objective reality.
Then one must have an open, empathetic heart. This person has certain feelings and is suffering. How do I know that he [or she - everything applies to both genders equally] is suffering? Because EVERYBODY is suffering. That is a big line. EVERYBODY is suffering. Not everybody likes to admit it or talk about it but it is true. Well - at least about every person with whom I have ever spoken.
What are they suffering from? Well, the list is too long for a post or even a long series of books but here are a few examples: If he is single then there is the loneliness and anxiety that often goes along with being single. If he is married then chances are that he and his spouse have unresolved issues. If they don't have children or have few children then maybe they are suffering from infertility. If they have children then they are suffering from their children's problems - be it ADD, ADHD, countless emotion and physical ailments, social issues, sibling rivalry etc, Then there are problems with parents and in-laws. Then of course there are the scars we all carry from childhood. We ALL are scarred even though we may not be aware of it. Then there are people who are suffering financially. Who isn't? I don't know anyone for whom money is not a serious issue in their life. Some people have it while others have less or none at all but for [almost?] everyone it is a source of anxiety or pressure - from billionaires to homeless people. You see people who have enough money to live for a thousand years yet they are tense about their finances. Then there is the hurt people feel because of their treatment by others be it their boss, spouse [often the same person], parents, friends, business relationships etc. I have a friend who had a business relationship that went sour and he said that it was more painful than a serious illness from which he had suffered. I would have gone for the crooked partner any day but he had experienced both and didn't feel that way. I know someone who was fired and often remarked that it was more painful than the cancer he had. These scars don't just disappear into thin air.
I often dream and when I wake up I feel as if I had just received a very costly but tremendously effective therapy session. When one is sleeping his rational mind is at rest and the soul is dong the talking. The soul reveals what is REALLY going on inside of you - despite your conscious or unconscious efforts to blot it out.
So this is the bottom line: We NEVER know how much someone is suffering. We often don't even know how much WE OURSELVES are suffering. So how can we judge another human being whom we can't understand because we are locked into our own mode of being??!
What we CAN do is open our hearts to others and accept them unconditionally on their own terms. If they want, we can offer other models of being but that is a later stage.
Besides how much a person is suffering there are always other hidden factors of which we are not aware. Do you know how a person is feeling physically? Do you know his brain chemistry? Do you know his inner emotional life? Do you know his demons, fears, disappointments and frustrations? What is the ratio of how much you do know to how much you don't?
How did our holy sages put it?
אל תדין את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו. Don't judge your friend until you reach his place. And since you will NEVER be in his place - don't judge at all.
Accept, validate and love. That is what others need from you. If they ever need opinions then there are more than enough people ready and willing to offer it. Giving ones opinion is gratifying to the ego because that makes one a "יש" - a somebody. EVERYBODY wants to be a somebody.
[Note: I happen to like all of the posts that I write but every so often there is one that I believe to be a grand slam. This is one of them. If the ideas were internalized and implemented then society would change dramatically for the better].