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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Judgement

WARNING: this morning's blog session finds me in a sorely aggravated mood; that, combined with the topic at hand (which I'd already chosen prior to becoming aggravated), means that it's pretty likely that some anger will seep through in this piece.

Here there be monsters; ye be warned.

We live in a world divided, divided in many ways. In D is for Dichotomy, I talked about some of those divisions, some of those oppositions, but today, I want to talk about an age-old idea that may not be exactly right.

One of the ways in which people or groups can be divided hinges on Judgement. Many people believe that judgement is "bad," or "negative." It's bad to judge, and worse to inflict your judgements on others. There are just as many, though, if not more, who make judgemental behavior an integral part of their day-to-day, some professionally (like, you know, judges?), and some... not so much.

So who's got it right?

My answer may surprise you: Almost no one.

When you simmer it down, what does it mean to "judge"? Really, it means to analyze and decide. That's all. What do you want for dinner? What color pants do you want to wear? Are you warm enough? Is the radio loud enough?

If you can answer any of those questions, you have Judged. Are any of those questions bad? Are your answers bad? Is the fact that you HAVE answers bad? Of course not, not in any way.

So why does Judgement have a bad rap?

What we really find repellent (or empowering, as the case may be) is the act of pushing Judgements on others. When one person, or one group, analyzes, decides, and then enforces that decision on others in some way... that's not Judgement. That's an entirely different pair of sandals altogether.

I've given this a lot of thought, lately, and here's what I've come up with:

Judgement, in and of itself, is... nothing. It's neutral. It's a process, a mechanic for sorting input and making decisions. That's all. It's a difference engine in your brain. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes, Judgement requires that two parties, be they individuals, groups, governments, what have you, have to find a common ground: each side decodes the data in "their" own way, and reaches what seems like a sound conclusion to them. The two parties then compare conclusions, and attempt to find the place where those conclusions share elements, and use those elements to arrive at a compromise that works for everyone, or at least the greatest number of people possible.

This is the healthy, sane application of Judgement. Hell, we even have idioms for it in english: "use your best judgement," "against my better judgement," "using poor judgement." You get the picture. You can even admit you made a mistake: "I misjudged."

The problem arises when one party decides they know better than another what is good for that other. When the "aggressor," for lack of a better word, decides that they can "Judge," and then "implement" without input from those affected.

There's a word in english for that, too... Injustice.

So, peeling away all the justifications and rationalizations, we come to the inevitable conclusion that Judgement becomes "bad" when it becomes Unjust.

There's a phrase that entered my vocabulary over the last year or so: Judge and Smite.

Pretty hostile, eh? Pretty aggressive. Maybe in danger of being Unjust, no?


Here's the thing. No matter how much we'd like to pretty it up otherwise, we all live in our own little bubbles. Our own little worlds. Our own little realities. "Things" happen when those bubbles merge with one another. Love. Sparks. Anger. Conflict. Creation.


So, really, all I can do, all any of us can do, is work with what we have, with, as my Very Wise Friend says, what's right in front of us.

Shifting gears for a moment... the Buddhists talk about an idea called Ruthless Compassion, the idea that sometimes, the best way to help someone is to let them muddle through their problems without help. Bailing someone out every time they make a mistake doesn't teach them anything.

Judge and Smite takes that a step further. I'm not God. I'm not the Law. If someone crosses my Path, however, and provokes a Smite reaction... maybe that's their lesson, that day. Maybe they have something to learn from the encounter that cannot be taught gently, or compassionately.

"Rationalization!" I can hear some of you thinking... How Judgemental of you!

See how it works? You have to make your bed, and you have to lay in it, both in terms of your own choices, and in terms of how you react to the choices of others.

We Judge, constantly, more often than we realize... and, just as in all other corridors of life, sometimes those Judgements lead us astray. Sometimes they carry us off course... and, in recovering therefrom, we learn things about ourselves.

So when I talk about Judge and Smite, I'm not roaming the streets, looking for people to punish. Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I'm a compassionate, generous person.... but I have teeth, too, and I won't shy away from using them if the circumstances call for it. If I behave unfairly, I'll pay for it; there's no getting out of it... and that's an arrangement I'm comfortable with.

Judge away, then, friends... so long as you're Just in your Judgement.

Author's Note: Hmm. That didn't come out as angry as I thought it might.

...I must have misjudged.


  1. I agree with Sugar, Brilliant!!

  2. Fantastic brilliant and all kinds of wonderful!! :)