Judging and Being Judgmental
Have I blogged about this topic before? I feel like I have. I probably have. But it is on my mind again. “Judging” and “being judgmental” (in the current, predominant use of that two-word phrase) are not the same thing.
I don’t understand why this is such a difficult concept.
It seems as if there are two types of people (I’m not saying there are, it just feels like it sometimes: Those who say, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” and then abandon all judgment and reason in the name of not being judgmental, and then get a bit huffy when you mention that it really doesn’t mean we should abandon all reason and judgment; and those who say, “Judge not, that ye be not judged, you evil sinner who is dammed for hellfire because you don’t believe the way I believe.”
Both are wrong. W.R.O.N.G. (See! That’s me, being judgmental!)
You see, there is a difference between saying/thinking/feeling, “Person X is gay and therefore an awful person with whom I will never associate,” and “Person Y is flagrantly promiscuous (hetero or homo, take your pick) and talks of nothing other than his/her latest escapades in the most uncomfortable, vulgar, crude manner possible, so maybe let’s not have him/her over for dinner around the kids or, even, ever.”
The first scenario is being judgmental, the second is exercising judgment.
Telling your child, “No, you can’t play over at Jonny’s house,” because his parents are democrats (or republicans, or members of the green party) is being judgmental. Telling your child, “No, you can’t play over at Jonny’s house,” because you know Jonny’s parents are usually strung out on the sofa watching porn while Jonny either plays in traffic or watches with them is exercising judgment.
We shouldn’t “be judgmental” (in the current, predominant use of that two-word phrase), but we must make judgments. Really.
If we abandoned all judgment, how would we chose our POTUS? How would we choose our friends? How would we choose a spouse???? How would we decided what we need to be teaching our kids at home (your kid lies to you all the time? Well, you can’t say he’s a liar and try to teach him NOT to be, because then you’re judging him and hurting his feelings! He’s just a sweet fifteen-year-old spirit from God, and if you hug him enough he’s bound to come around without you ever saying anything!) If we abandon all judgment, how do we decide what foods are best to buy for and serve to our kids? How do we decide where, or if, to go to church? How do we decide who to hire to babysit our children? How do we decide which hairdresser to stick with, which doctor is the best fit for us, or which plumber we will or will not hire again? If we get hung up on not judging to the point of abandoning all judgment, then who teaches our kids how to exercise good judgment when it comes to driving a car, picking their friends, planning for their future, or choosing their spouse?
For the love of all that’s holy, we MUST make judgments all the time, and some of them must be about/regarding/whatever word you want to use here . . . people!
I’m not saying we write people off because of one thing, whether it be religion, skin color, sexual orientation, political orientation, education level, or some random lapse in their judgment (as opposed to consistent, repeated lapses) (which I’m not even sure are lapses, by definition, at that point). What I am saying is that we need to keep our eyes open to the reality that:
A. No matter how hard you try, how much you think you aren’t doing it, if you honestly assess yourself you will see that you make judgments every single day of your life.
B. You must make these reasonable judgments or your life will suck.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says it in a much better, less perturbed way than I do:
We must, of course, make judgments every day in the exercise of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are intermediate and not final. Thus, our Savior’s teachings contain many commandments we cannot keep without making intermediate judgments of people: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6); “Beware of false prophets. … Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15–16); and “Go ye out from among the wicked” (D&C 38:42).
We all make judgments in choosing our friends, in choosing how we will spend our time and our money, and, of course, in choosing an eternal companion. Some of these intermediate judgments are surely among those the Savior referenced when He taught that “the weightier matters of the law” include judgment (Matt. 23:23).
The scriptures not only command or contemplate that we will make intermediate judgments but also give us some guidance—some governing principles—on how to do so . . .
I posted a link to that talk on a FB thread earlier (not mine) and somebody said, basically, “I agree with everything he said, but it doesn’t say we can judge people.”
Hence my perturbation. I. don’t. get. it.
I don’t know the person who said that. I don’t know her at all. I suspect, I like to think, that if she and I were to meet face to face and discuss this topic, we would find that we actually agree. I would like to think that this is one of those misunderstandings that arises from communicating in impersonal snippets with no opportunity for give and take (because I’m not going back to the thread to respond – I’ve seen how FB give and take can go, and the original poster doesn’t want that, nor do I). I like to think that. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that for every person who can discern between “judgment” and “being judgmental” (or, what I called in my comment on that thread “righteous judgments” and “self-righteous judgment”), there is at least one more who can’t.
Is it a vocabulary problem? Do the words “judge” and “judgment” carry such unforgivable, negative connotations that we now need to use a new word when we mean “reasonable judgment” as opposed to “catty witchiness”?
Yes, I try to exercise good judgment. I don’t do it perfectly, but I do my best. I try to exercise it in a way that will be beneficial not just to me and mine, but to others as well. I do not feel less “Christ-like” for doing so. Christ was blind to neither reality nor truth, nor does He tell us we should be. I realize his perception of both is perfect and mine is not, and I am thankful that it is He who must sort through it all and make the final judgments. In the meantime, I will continue to strive to understand both reality and truth as best I can and make necessary intermediate judgments accordingly. For my sake. For my children’s sake.
Tewt the Newt hopes you’ll forgive the blogger for spouting off about this again, and also hopes you’ll take the time to read the talk. Even if you aren’t LDS, you’ll probably find it interesting, and you might, just maybe, notice that it mentions judging people.