White Collar Support Group Blog: Negative Judgments Can Hurt, or They Can Heal. The Choice is Yours to Make, by Fellow Traveler Craig Stanland

Craig Stanland is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings.


I’m honored to be a member of a White Collar Support Group lead by my dear friend, Jeff Grant

We meet every Monday, and the topics vary; however, a few issues rise above the rest. 

One of those issues is Judgments, particularly as it relates to our family and friends trying to reconcile our choices and actions.

This article was written with the group in mind, however it’s lessons apply to everyone.

The author Cheri Huber stated the following in her wonderful book, “There Is Nothing Wrong With You,”

“When you judge someone else it’s simply self-hate projected outward.”

When I look at my own judgments of others, she’s right. 

However, there is another component of negative judgments I’d like to add to this and explore. 

I believe we judge people/circumstances/situations negatively when we don’t understand them. When the person/circumstance/situation doesn’t fit into one of the many boxes we have in our minds.

We, as humans, love to put things in boxes. We love to label things.

We do this because if something doesn’t fit into a box, then it’s unknown. And anything unknown, according to the oldest parts of our brains, is scary. 

Anything scary is a direct threat to our survival, and our brain’s primary function is to keep us alive. 

So we have to label it, and because it’s scary, it’s inherently “bad.”

Hence, negative judgments. 

Now, all of a sudden, this scary, bad, unknown thing has a label, it’s no longer unknown, and we’ve taken a step towards keeping ourselves alive.

We have the illusion of control. 

Why do I say illusion? Because we don’t really have control over anything, only our response to any given situation. 

We, as members of the white-collar justice impacted community, are in the minority. 

I read this online; please fact check me if I’m wrong,  

“White-collar crime makes up just over 3% of overall federal prosecutions yearly.”

Three percent is not a lot. It’s barely a blip on the radar. And this is important because it ties to what I’ve been discussing.

To our family and friends, what we’ve done, and what we are currently experiencing or have experienced is unknown. 

It’s scary. 

I think we’d all like to believe we have the capacity for compassion, and for the most part, we do.

However, compassion becomes a challenge when we face something we don’t understand, and we feel fear (even if it’s fear for the person we love).

Fear clouds our thinking. 

It becomes easier to seek control in the form of negative judgments so we can feel better about a situation. 

Now, obviously, I can’t speak for every person on the planet, but I know I’m guilty of this. 

And I bet if you’re honest with yourself about negative judgments you’ve made in the past, you’ll find you’ve done it as well. 

Equipped with this awareness, we can change our perceptions of those who judge us negatively. 

We can see that they are either:

Experiencing an inner turmoil that’s eating them up inside, and they need to project that self-hate elsewhere.


They’re afraid. 

Even equipped with this perspective, it will most likely sting when someone judges us; we’re human beings having a human experience, after all.

But, if we’re able to bring awareness into the situation and understand where their negative judgments are coming from, we can do something that sounds counterintuitive to every reaction we want to have: 

We can feel compassion and empathy for them. Because they either hate something about themselves or they’re scared. 

This may sound ludicrous, 

“Someone calls me a “fraudster,” a “crook,” a “liar” and I’m going to feel empathy towards them?” 

I’d argue yes, and here’s why:

Viktor Frankl said it best,

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Here is something essential to note:

We have the right to be angry at negative judgments; we have the right to be hurt.

As long as we are choosing these responses and not reacting with these responses. And, when the moment passes, we make a critical choice:

Will we choose to stay angry and hurt? Or will we choose compassion and empathy? 

When we choose compassion and empathy, we seize something that may seem foreign for many of us: 


The moment we have agency in our lives, we change the narrative, we open a new chapter.

When we live with agency, we give ourselves one of the greatest gifts we can wish for in our situation:

The ability to reinvent our lives into whatever we are meant to do. 


My new book, “Blank Canvas, How I Reinvented My Life After Prison” is now available on Amazon.

I wrote this book from my heart, and I gave it everything I had.

My dream, my goal for this book is that it helps one person—the one person who feels right now how I once felt. 

I’d be honored if you checked it out.