Don’t Give Up Your Right to Judge
Lately, there’s been a trend in social media shaming people out of their right to judge. Supporters of “non-judgment” have taken the word and attached all of the ways we strike out at others to it. They’ve decided that our impatience, ignorance, annoyance, jealousy, hatred, superiority and prejudice are all aspects of judgment and that’s some heavy baggage for a relatively neutral concept to carry around.
In some instances, yes, judgment can be a strategy for deflecting our own unsavory qualities onto others. But the blanket statement, “don’t judge,” if taken too far, can be detrimental to our safety and well-being.
Let’s be clear, there is a difference between judgment and condemnation. Judging gives us the ability to determine what is right for us and condemnation is when we try to say what’s right/wrong for others (or society as a whole).
The Zen practice of non-judgment doesn’t mean we sit back like wallflowers with no agency to decide right from wrong in our lives. Let’s face it; we live in a world where not everyone or every place is a safe choice for us. We need to be able, through making sound judgments about our surroundings, to determine our personal boundaries and to choose our relationships wisely. Without this skill, we would likely hurt ourselves or allow others to hurt us.
Judgment, the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions, is a skill we all need to get good at over time. Our safety and happiness depend on it. It’s impossible to make any decision without using some form of judgment. We all do it, and we should.
So then why are so many people online telling us we shouldn’t judge others?
First, understand they are using the word judgment as a catch-all for our lack of kindness and responsibility to treat others with respect. The other type of judgment that’s being referred to is our egoic tendency to make other people wrong so we can appear right. But in my opinion, that behavior goes beyond judgment to what I would call condemnation, labeling, criticism, discrimination or pre-determination (deciding something about a person before knowing the facts).
And even then, there are circumstances when critical finger-pointing does have a place. When people are being harmed or violated, we have the right (and responsibility) to speak up strongly about what is unfair or unjust behavior.
We also have the right to tell others how their words and actions make us feel. We have the right to shut down unacceptable treatment and bad behavior when it affects us negatively.
When necessary, we need to express our anger and frustration in healthy ways and all of that requires the power of good judgment.
Allowing others to walk all over us so we can avoid appearing “judgmental” is ridiculous!
I know that a lot of this comes down to semantics, but it’s an important issue and I don’t want you to feel confused. The word “judge” has gotten a bad rap. It’s being used in place of criticism and labeling and that’s not what it means at all. We say, “don’t judge…” and we leave out the rest, the part where we label something bad or wrong. Judging isn’t either, it’s simply an exercise in consideration.
Humans are adept critical thinkers; it’s true. Being aware of our constantly active mind we can determine if we’re judging good or bad to glorify our ego and condemn others or because doing so is a matter of safety and sanity. We can be open-minded and still use our powers of discernment or judgment in any given situation. Judgment, in and of itself isn’t wrong. It’s how we use our power to judge that can sometimes hurt us and others.
Your judgment should always be reserved to decide what’s right for YOU.
We ALL have the right to judge as long as we honor the rights of others to determine their well-being too. Just because something isn’t right for you doesn’t mean it’s wrong for all people. And the same goes for what you think is correct. Maintaining our right to judge means we have to allow others the same courtesy. People can have differing opinions and both be right. That’s possible because we come from different worlds with unique perspectives on what we want and need. If you truly want to claim your right to judge and judge fairly, then you have to honor this fact: your version of what’s right isn’t the only one.
With judgment comes a responsibility to learn your own mind and develop a meter for fairness and a leaning toward kindness as a way of life. If you don’t like the way things are, look for an opportunity to make a positive change…even if that means getting yourself the hell out of a situation. Find ways to express your preferences without condemning others. Offer solutions in place of criticism. Take more time. React less. Exercise patience for the right answer to surface. Listen more…to others and to your internal guidance. Learn to be a fair and honest judge.
Judgment is a powerful tool for positive change. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You have the right to use your powers of judgment, discernment, and choice. Without them, how can you ever trust yourself and your decisions?
In Life and Love, Tracy