Do You Judge Judgment?

It’s a peculiarly modern Catch-22: To Judge or Not to Judge?

Consider the two sides:

Person A: Can you believe what those bullies (and/or racists, bigots, gang members, etc.) did? How awful!

Person B: Hey, man–don’t judge! Who are YOU to say what’s “awful”? Everyone’s on their own path.

What would YOU say?

Would you judge like Person A, or would you agree with Person B that bullying isn’t bad (or good)–it simply is? No judgment, right? After all, judgment is bad!

Oh, wait–that’s a judgment! I shouldn’t judge! Oh, no! That was another judgment! I shouldn’t should. Now I’m doubly bad! Oh, no–there’s another judgment! (…etc.)

Sound familiar?

Have you ever heard or had a conversation like this (even if it was just within your own mind)? If so, you’ve probably realized that you can go round and round in circles–and drive yourself nuts–trying to rid yourself of a very natural and, I believe, oftentimes healthy response: judgment.

After all, what is judgment?

  • Judgment = Thought + Opinion
  • Judgment = Observation + Discernment
  • Judgment = Preference

Judgment is having a sense (emotionally, logically, and/or intuitively) of what is most healthy, beneficial, or positive.

Judgment has many benefits:

  • It can steer you toward your dreams. (“This is a better path for me.”)
  • It can keep you safe. (“This place looks sketchy–let’s get out of here.”)
  • It can help you surround yourself with people who support and nurture you. (“I get a better vibe from the second group of people–let’s hang out with them.”)

On the other hand, a lack of judgment can do just the opposite. Consider people about whom you might say, “He’s a poor judge of character” or “She doesn’t use good judgment”–they’re likely to hang around people who drag them down or even jeopardize their lives.

Yet in the personal-growth world, “judgment” is widely considered a “bad” word (logical inconsistency or not).

To be fair, this is probably a reaction to excessive moral condemnation, closed-mindedness, and a patronizing holier-than-thou attitude. (Remember Dana Carvey as SNL’s “Church Lady” who always deemed herself morally “superior”–and even had a special “Superior Dance” to celebrate it? It’s amusing on TV, but not so much in real life.)

However, the pendulum can swing so far back in the other direction that you beat yourself (and/or others) up just for having an opinion. If you feel yourself being too hard on yourself–judging yourself for judging–remember the upsides of judgment.

Judgment can make the world a better place!

Judgment is a perfectly sane reaction to insanity, and a compassionate reaction to cruelty. In fact, judging things as “bad” has led to some of the world’s most important breakthroughs, such as the abolition of slavery and the introduction of anti-abuse laws.

Judgment provides “clarity through contrast”!

One of my favorite concepts is “clarity through contrast”–which means that seeing (and even judging) things that you don’t like can help you clarify what you do like. (For instance, rude and/or bigoted people can remind you to surround yourself with considerate, tolerant people.)

The clearer you get about what you DO want, the more you can focus on those things and bring them into your life–and this process frequently starts with a sound judgment.

Judgment can show that you care!

When someone experiences a tragedy, such as the untimely loss of a loved one, it’s natural to feel (and say) that this is “awful” or “tragic.” Yes, this is a judgment, but wouldn’t it be pretty cold-hearted to say (or feel), “This is neither good nor bad–it simply is. No judgment.”?

So, should we all be more judgmental?

No, I’m not encouraging you to judge more–and certainly not to go around condemning everything and everyone you dislike. Remember, we each have a limited perspective and never know the whole story behind every situation. Besides, it’s no fun to spend your life fixating on everything that’s wrong with the world.

What I am suggesting is that we all go a bit easier on ourselves (and others) when we do make a judgment. It’s perfectly natural, healthy, and often helpful.

So, the next time you notice yourself making judgments, rather than trying to figure out whether your judgments are good or bad, you can simply notice them and say, “Thank you for this perspective–I value your opinion”–without making any judgment.

(But, if you do, that’s OK, too.)

Do you ever find yourself judging your own judgment? Could you be easier on yourself (and/or others) for this? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments…and maybe even judgments! 🙂

15 thoughts on “Do You Judge Judgment?

  1. Such clarity and wisdom here, Dan. This “judgment” dilemma can certainly get tricky! I resonate with everything you said here. Thank you for giving me something to ponder this rainy afternoon. 🙂

    • Thank you, Alia. This means so much, especially coming from one of the queens of clarity and wisdom! And thank you again for sharing your wonderful, inspiring TED talk with the world–so important to keep what truly matters in the forefront!
      Happy pondering!

  2. I can assess a situation
    I avoid blanket condemnation too
    A true skill to develop though,
    Is judging what I say and do.

    • You definitely “get it” & even managed to communicate exactly what I was going for–so clearly and succinctly: “assess a situation…avoid blanket condemnation”–right on!
      Regarding judging what you say and do, I’d say that judgments will either arise naturally or they won’t–no need to force or resist. If you listen to your gut, your head, & your heart, I’m sure they’ll steer you right!
      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughtful comment! Glad to see you here!

  3. Thankyou for writing this! Maybe it’s the word itself that people ( paticularly, as you say, in ‘self developement’ circles) judge! ‘Judgement’. For me anyway, it does conjure up childhood ideas of ‘right & wrong’, ‘good & bad’. It’s just a matter of looking at the differently. Without putting a jugdement on ‘Judgement’!

    • I think you’re right that the word itself is probably what throws many people off–much more so than, for instance, “opinion” or “preference.” Good point!
      Thanks for coming by, reading, and joining the conversation–come back any time! 🙂

  4. I LOVE this! I usually associate the word “judgement” with a negative. I am constantly justifying my “judgements.” I feel that you said it best when you said, “Judgment is having a sense (emotionally, logically, and/or intuitively) of what is most healthy, beneficial, or positive.”

    My judgement is dipping my toe in the water to test the temperature. I always like to asses the lay of the land exploring further!

    Great blogs from both you and Jodi!

    • Thank you so much, Tina–what encouraging words!
      You’re absolutely right that “judgment” doesn’t have to be negative (e.g., “what a wonderful comment” is a judgment, as is “the water feels great!”). I don’t think you should ever have to justify your likes, dislikes, opinions, or preferences (unless you want to). I think you’re very smart to “test the water” before deciding if it feels right for you to dive in or walk away!
      Glad you’ve found this blog and are enjoying Jodi’s too! (I’ve certainly got an infinite supply of positive “judgment” about her & everything she does, too!)
      Thanks again for your kind words! All the best to you.

  5. Thank you for this post, Dan. It comes at a very good time for me because over the past few days I have been contemplating upon whether being judgmental is a beneficial thing or not. Judging myself for judging, as you put it. It’s nice to think of it from the perspective you’ve put across and see the positive aspects of judging. 🙂

    • Thank you, Susmitha. Glad for the good timing, too–nice how that often works out, that what we’re contemplating appears before us. This is obviously something I’m still mulling over, too, as there certainly seem to be at least two sides to the issue, each with validity–but I think the “no judgments!” side has been getting more than its share of “air time” lately, so it seemed like time to balance things out a bit.
      Regarding whether or not judgment is beneficial, I figure there are probably times when it is and when it isn’t–and that only you and your heart can know for each situation. Sometimes an open, nonjudgmental heart wants to stay open to different perspectives; other times your heart may long to take a stand against injustice or cruelty–and, I believe, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
      In any case, enjoy the contemplating–and stop by any time! 🙂

  6. As always, Dan, you present fresh perspective that is easily accessible to others. I enjoy reading your thoughts in judgment, and agree with your conclusions completely. This piece reminds me of a course I had many moons ago in college taught by a behavioral psychologist. The topic was “stereotypes” – one of the “bad” types of judgments. Why do we have stereotypes, and do they actually serve any purpose that’s good. Actually, from a psychological standpoint, we need “shortcuts” to evaluate new situations, lest we become overwhelmed by everything being new. So, we can’t help but form judgments. It’s what we do with the judgments that fall into personal development, I believe. We don’t have to be harsh with others or ourselves for having natural human reactions.

    • Thank you, Alice–I’ll definitely accept your kind “judgment” of this piece! 🙂
      Great point about stereotypes. I think the difference is that stereotypes are when we PRE-judge someone (prejudice). And even this may be a natural reaction, which we can’t necessarily help. But we can also stay open to the delightful possibility that our (pre)judgments may be proven inaccurate.
      I agree that the key is not to be harsh with anyone for natural reactions–like thoughts or emotions or hunger.
      Thanks for adding your perspective on this.
      (Oh, and by the way: I’m an INFP–more inclined to perceiving rather than judging, but that doesn’t mean I don’t make judgments, too.)
      Always great to see you & hear your thoughts.
      All the best. 🙂

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