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"Not judging"? Why not?



Not judging here. He says that a lot, and of course he is judging. We all judge. Our better selves might try to tell us not to do so, but maybe our even-higher selves know that judgement has a place. If we have a moral compass, a sense of what is right and what is wrong, then surely there must be boundaries between the one and the other, and equally surely we are permitted, even required, to make that call.   

I make no apology for it: I judge.   

What I will and do apologise for is how often I get the judgement wrong. I am human after all. I mis-judge for all the usual reasons: not having all the relevant information, not being in my own right head-space at the time, acting on mood rather than morals, being impatient and quick to move past a moment, having not yet attained the appropriate perception to understand the issues and so on.   

We all do these things. I suggest that owning up to this, being honest about our judgements, might serve the world better than pretending that we do not judge.  

I’m not judging here is meant to be placatory, but it misses the point.   

Assuming that statement comes from the best of intentions, I choose to translate it as meaning: I’m not judging you, as a person. My intention is specifically not to “put you down”. Whatever I am saying here: I still value all of who you are. BUT I am judging your behaviour and I find it… 

 …ah, now there’s the thing. What is it that we find? How does he find my behaviour that he claims not to judge? It could be any number of things. Words that spring to mind include inexcusable, inappropriate, unacceptable, wrong, dark, disturbing, unusual, discomforting, unsettling, bizarre, unexpected, strange, not-you, puzzling, unhelpful, weird, incompatible, misaligned, odd…  

I could go on. I won’t.  

The point is this: when we make a comment and then tell the recipient that we are not judging, we effectively shut down any way into the important discussion that might arise from making (admitting) the judgement. If we could be brave enough to admit that I am not judging your worth as a person, but I am judging this particular aspect or instance or behaviour or act,  I think there might be an interesting conversation to be had.   

I might learn from that judgement something about how I think or act that I hadn’t recognised before. It might be something that I will want to look at and potentially change my viewpoint about…or I might just think yeah, and?  And then the conversation could continue. Or perhaps my view might prevail.  

Either way there is space in debate.  One or other of us might soften or shift our stance. We may move slightly closer to the other’s point of view. Or equally we may dig in our heels and change nothing at all – except that even then we have a more honest appreciation of each other.  

That is the very least that comes of talking about what we like, don’t like, wish was different…these are all judging states…the very least that comes of voicing them, being brave enough to try to talk about them, is that we create more open and honest relationships.  

Breaking news: No-one is perfect.   

I don’t believe in soul mates – or to use the more direct translation that I have just learned from the Celtic Anam Cara: soul friends. I don’t have to believe in them because I know we have them. I know  because I have met a few of mine. And they are no more perfect than I am. Our interactions are not all sweetness and light.   

They are mostly sweetness and light, but they are also at times scratchy and dull. I wouldn’t go as far as to say sour and dark. Not that. But human. To be human is to be imperfect. To be human is to have preferences. To be human is to judge.  

I believe in the power of words. So let me make a subtle distinction here. I find a difference between judging and being judgemental.  

Judging is simply making a decision about how well or otherwise something fits into our view of what we want our world to be. Essentially, it measures our own and/or another’s behaviour against our value-system. It is personal. It does not mean that we want or need them to adopt our system, or to be other than who they are. It simply acknowledges that in that way, they breach our code. Note: our code. Not theirs. Ours. This is important.   

Being judgemental takes us beyond that. When we are judgemental about people then we do expect them to live by our values. We judge their whole worth by the degree to which they conform to our world-view. When we are judgemental, there is very little room for the discussion I referred to earlier, because if we are judgemental our heels are already well-dug-in. We are not going to shift.   

Judgemental is an I am right and you are wrong state of mind. Judging is an I don’t agree with you state of mind, but also an I’m open to rethinking this state of mind.   

It struck me that this matters very much right now with all that is going on in the world. So much is happening that is creating division between people. As the media (conventional, social, alternative – they all have their own agenda) vie for our attention, it feels to me that there is this push & pull going on. Believe me! Ignore them! This is the truth! These are the lies! Like most people, I actually have too little access to the source data to make a true “judgement call” on any of it.  

What I have figured out, however, is how many people are wanting, needing, inveigling, insisting, dragging, forcing, enforcing, in whatever way requiring us to take sides. Whatever the debate is about, be it police activity, government (in)action, scientific advances/guesswork, lies, damn lies and statistics, coincidences, possibilities, probabilities, fallacies, fantasies, faith, falsehood…whatever…it feels as though everyone wants me to get off the fence. Pick a side.   

This requires me either to condemn or condone. Condemn actions I don’t agree with. Condone those I do. Regardless of the good or harm they do – usually a mixture of both in this imperfect world –pick a side.   

What I have figured out is that it is between condemning and condoning that we find compassion.  

It is in the acceptance of uncertainty and willingness to listen that we find the space to be kind.   

Our compassion may fall more heavily on one side or the other. Compassion doesn’t require us to suspend our judgement. It requires us to act in love and kindness,regardless. I recently read the question: what do you do when today’s victims are yesterday’s perpetrators?  You treat them as victims AND perpetrators. You show compassion for their current position, and call them to account for their past misdeeds. These things are not mutually exclusive.  

Judging and loving are not mutually exclusive.    

Compassion is the ability to see the human and to feel the imperfection of being so. Compassion is the bravery to cut through that conflict-avoidance safety net of ‘not judging’. Let us judge. Let us honour our moral compass. Let us call out the things we do not want in our world. AND at the same time, let us admit that it is hard, that our view of what is right, may be equally imperfect. Let us be willing to stand by our judgements to the wholesome extent that we are able to allow them to be interrogated, questioned, and if necessary changed.   

Let us be honest about who we are and what we believe. And let that not be set in stone.  







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