Judging – All Too Human

A response to a recent posting of mine caused me to once again reflect upon the whole concept of judging and being judgmental.  This is something I’ve spent much time considering and testing various ideas and perspectives with regards to the term and its meaning.  There are a number of definitions in the dictionary but when people speak of being judgmental or of judging another person I believe the following definition is the one in play: to form a judgment or opinion of; decide upon critically.  I often hear people speak negatively about those who judge others and initially this would seem to make sense.  From a philosophical standpoint no human is really in a position to critically judge another person simply because we are all human and hence struggle with the same frailties and subjective perspectives as those we might judge.  Okay, on the surface this seems to make sense.

But rather than just accept this concept and move on I was troubled because the more I thought about the act of judging the less I could see how this could be so negative.  Indeed, after considerable reflection and pondering I’ve come to believe that to be human is to judge and that it is virtually impossible to live one’s life without almost continually making judgments.  This definitely seems to fly in the face of the concept that we humans shouldn’t judge. Let’s start with some simple examples involving judgment, in this case of what most would deem are inanimate objects.  This weekend I was relaxing in my living room enjoying the sunshine and middle sixty degree air temps and listening to music. I’ve been an audiophile from my college ‘daze’ and have always tried to own as good a stereo system as I could afford.  A few years back I was finally able to add a pair of Klipsch Reference Series RF-88 II tower speakers to my stereo system and they are undoubtedly one of the finest audio speakers available eclipsed only by those floor standing tower RF-7’s and, of course, the incredible towers in Klipsch’s ‘Palladium’ series.  If only I could afford the $20,000 to own a pair of those monsters!  Anyway, I was truly enjoying some Rush played at a fairly substantial volume when it occurred to me that I ‘judged’ these speakers to be far superior to say, a cheap pair of Realistic speakers from Radio Shack.  I could base this ‘judgment’ upon a whole list of facts like lower distortion, better power handling, more accurate sound and similar but that’s not the point.  Rather, I ‘judged’ these speakers superior to smaller, less expensive models.  Was this wrong?  Should I not judge these speakers at all and hence be happy with any type regardless of whether they sounded better or worse?  I immediately decided that to judge the performance of speakers was a good thing as my ears wouldn’t have enjoyed the sound from cheap speakers pushed to their breaking point by my sound system.

Upon realizing this I was suddenly flooded with the myriad of judgments I had made in my life and continue to make.  I prefer cool weather to hot because I am uncomfortable in air temps above 75 F; therefore I judge cooler temps to be better for me.  Although I am an animal lover in general I prefer to share my life with canines as I judge them to be more compatible with my lifestyle.  And as to canines; I do enjoy virtually all breeds but I prefer Germans Shepherd Dogs because I judge their traits (intelligence, size, loyalty, protective nature, etc.) to be better than say a Dachshund.  With this said I readily accept others may prefer different breeds over my choice and that’s fine as well as their right.  I could’ve retired in many different places but I chose Alaska because I judged it to be a ‘better’ choice given my preferences for weather, population density and environment.  I even chose to live rural even though I’d never done so in my previous 60 years simply because I judged the lifestyle would be more in-line with my current desires; thankfully I was correct!  I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. To be human is to make judgments and said judgments are generally particular to the person making them although they might overlap with others and even be in agreement with some people.  Is doing this somehow bad or negative?  I don’t think the aforementioned judgments have any moral or ethical value attached to them; they are simply choices I’ve made based upon my own reasons.  I do believe it’s important to be open to re-examining one’s judgments from time to time; if I hadn’t been willing to do this then I most likely would’ve retired someplace urban in the lower 48.  So for me making judgments is almost a daily occurrence and I believe this is the same for most other human beings.  How does one ‘square’ this observation with the expectations that one shouldn’t judge?

Perhaps to be more accurate is the concept one shouldn’t judge other people as versed with just judging things or ideas..?  Again, on the surface this seems to make sense but then I began to reflect upon situations in my past and suddenly the ‘wisdom’ in trying not to judge other people was less clear.  I thought back to my rather turbulent teenage years when I made some very questionable choices; to be honest I made a plethora of really stupid decisions.  I remember hanging out briefly with a group of my peers in my early teen years that were into things like destruction of property, petty theft and drinking.  In some convoluted thought process only a teen could conjure up let alone understand I thought I was being ‘cool’.  Yet as I heard about some of this group’s ‘accomplishments’ I began to realize I was uncomfortable with what they were doing in the name of ‘being cool’.  I can thank my wonderful upbringing from my parents for allowing me to finally realize this not only wasn’t cool but it was causing harm and grief to others; as such I didn’t want to be a part of this crowd!  At this time I judged these people as being destructive and causing harm to others and hence I didn’t want to associate with them.  Was I wrong in judging these peers?  I don’t think so.  Last I’d heard a couple had actually ended up being arrested; had my judging these people and deciding I didn’t want to be like them been something that was inherently bad?  Hardly; the way they were living their lives was what was inherently bad – another judgment from me – and I judged I didn’t want to live that way.  So here I’d judged my fellow humans, found them to not be up to the standards I was raised with and hence shunned associating with them.  Was this a case of judging my fellow-man and hence undertaking something which was not good..?  While I don’t believe anyone could make a case for my continuing to run with that questionable crowd my decision to not so required I judge them by their actions.

As I’ve matured I’ve been involved in judging my fellow humans on a regular basis yet I would mostly say these acts were not bad or untoward.  During my working years I often had to fill positions at my place of employment; as such I had to interview potential candidates and using predetermined criteria judge their ‘fit’ for the position.  Without question this was judging other human beings yet was it wrong?  I never thought so at the time nor do I believe so now; I was asked to fill job openings and the only way to effect this in an acceptable manner was to review candidate’s skills, backgrounds and experience and the make a selection.  So once again I was doing what at some time seemed wrong; I was judging other human beings.  If one was to truly take to heart the concept that one shouldn’t judge another human being how could one select a candidate for an open position?  The more I pondered these concepts the more examples I found in my own life and those of my fellow humans which required judging.  When seeking a relationship with other people one must look at said people with some degree of judgment.  If seeking a partner one must evaluate a possible partner in terms of their lifestyle, likes, dislikes, morals and a myriad of other characteristics.  This evaluation by nature involves making judgments; I see no other way it can be accomplished.  But there’s that rub once again; one is judging another human being.  So now what seemed so right on the surface has, with deeper consideration and reflection, proved to be something that we humans can almost not avoid doing and, indeed, is often required of us in our culture and society.

Okay, then maybe what those who espoused being non-judgmental were really trying to say was that we shouldn’t judge our fellow human beings in terms of morals or ethics..?  Once again on the surface this would seem to be a good thing but when one really digs into the issue it’s not so clear-cut.  Philosophies abound within human civilization and many are not mutually agreeable and some are downright at odds. We’ve all heard of ‘the ends justify the means’ and for the most part this is not something that is acceptable nowadays for some very solid reasons.  Yet more than just a few people can see situations when this concept is valid.  How do those of us who feel this can never be an acceptable approach to life deal with people who do accept the concept to varying degrees?  We can choose to argue this viewpoint or not to associate with these people but in so doing we’ve judged them on their beliefs.  A large tenant of Islam is that it is the only ‘true’ religion and as such should be practiced by all.  What of the Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or Wiccans out there; are they all non-believers?  If so has the religion of Islam – and hence those who do practice it – not judged all people who do not practice that religion?  Quite suddenly the concept of not judging other humans based on their moral, ethical or philosophical beliefs doesn’t seem to make much sense.

As I’ve reflected and considered the whole idea of being non-judgmental I’ve come to the conclusion it’s probably a ‘nice’ idea in theory and if the world were a perfect place perhaps none of us would judge others in any way although I cannot see how this would be possible.  I go back to something I was taught by my wonderful parents: life is all about making choices and with these choices will come consequences so as you make choices there is an unspoken deal that you will accept the consequences.  Often to make choices requires using one’s judgment; there’s just no way around this fact.  Rather than to feel guilt at making judgments perhaps it’s better to strive to make the very best judgments one can and then be willing to live with the consequences.  I also believe that trying to foster being non-judgmental (something I have pretty much shown to be impossible) in others often acts as a barrier to open, honest and clear communication.  I firmly believe that the Nazi party was evil and I base this judgment on historical facts yet if someone was to chide me for being judgmental – and in this case I truly am being just that – it fails to take into account the reasoning behind my judgment.  If there’s one thing this country desperately needs its open, honest and clear communication in all facets of life.  And, yes, this is a judgment of my own!  And now I’ll make yet another judgment: I believe the whole concept of pushing people to try to be non-judgmental is often just another form of trying to control speech and ultimately thought.  In my previous meanderings I think I’ve pretty much shown that we humans cannot be non-judgmental (Ooooops, I made yet another judgment!) yet function in today’s world.  Trying to completely do away with making judgments would largely mean we humans would basically exist as lumps of protoplasm doing little except respiring; even trying to feed ourselves requires making judgments.  So I fall back to the observation I made much earlier on – to be human is to be judgmental. That’s just how it is and I’m not going to feel ‘bad’ about my judgmental nature or guilty that I make many judgments each day; that would entail feeling bad or guilty because I’m human.  But I can try to remain on guard against judging others without knowing or understanding all the facts.  I think this might be about the best I can hope for…

13 thoughts on “Judging – All Too Human

  1. I believe the word judgement has a bad rap. There is nothing wrong with preferences, likes, and dislikes, pros and cons. They can all be used to form an opinion and make decisions. It is all too easy to put a label “good” and “bad” on things. That’s when judgement becomes critical. Especially if we do judge others. I may not like what others say or do, but that does not mean their behavior or action are good or bad. As soon as others are affected (hurt) by somebody’s actions or words we are entering a different realm. Then the qualifiers become “acceptable” or “not acceptable”. That’s at least how I operate.
    Obviously I am having too much time on my hands. Remote living is so much easier, because the need for judgement is reduced. The outdoors just don’t care about “judgements”. It is important to make decisions to survive or to be comfortable, but not to put a label on things.
    I guess , that’s my point: I don’t judge to put a label on something. I take facts into consideration (or not) to form an opinion, my opinion. Having different opinions? That’s ok. As long as it does not hurt anybody else.
    Does that add anything? Or should I kept silent?

    • Interesting take! No, under no circumstances would I want someone with thoughts or perspectives on this topic to fail to share them! I’m a firm believer in open discussion on any topic and invite differing viewpoints as this only enriches the ongoing discussion. I’ll have to reflect a bit more on your additions; they have merit and could well help to clarify some of my own still unresolved issues. Loved your observation that ‘Mother Nature’ doesn’t care about judgments; it was dead on! Things do indeed have a way of being distilled down to their most basic essence in the great outdoors; now that you’ve elucidated something I only previously sensed I can clearly see this to be true. This is the kind of interaction I truly value; folks having an open, honest and civil discussion around a topic and being willing to listen, consider and respond as required. Sometimes dealing with philosophical issues can be downright tricky and can get to be more trouble than it’s worth; I do not see the issue around judging and being judgmental falling into such a category. I agree that we are all due our opinions and as long as said opinions do no harm to others than they are valid whether I may agree with them or not. As you probably guessed by this entry was generated by a lot of consideration and reflection on my part. Without question I feel its not my place to judge my fellow human beings yet I find myself doing so on an almost routine basis; this can and often does leave me a bit uneasy. But the fact that I’m willing to write about my concerns and engender discussions with other thoughtful people can never be a ‘bad’ thing. Thanks for the response and please never, ever feel you shouldn’t respond to something I’ve written if you feel the need; I love to learn and am finding the older I get the less I recognize I really ‘know’…

  2. Enjoyed your take on this subject. We’ve come to much the same conclusion. Judging is a GOOD thing. It’s how we decide whom we want in our lives… and whom we do not. Wise judgement plays a preventative role in guiding people away from bad decisions and unethical behavior.

    • Thanks for the kind words! Initially I bought into the philosophically based view that no human being has the basis to judge another; it just seemed to sound correct. But when I really started to delve into what this meant I couldn’t square this idea with being human. We all make a myriad of judgments every day and if we didn’t do this we’d almost be catatonic and certainly unable to function in everyday life. I loved your comment regarding ‘wise judgment’ and I think it points to the crux of this entire matter; one’s judgments should always be based in the wisdom of learning and experience and tempered by empathy and understanding. Often I believe its the latter piece that gets blown out of proportion when forming the basis for a judgment. A classic example in my mind was the recent beating of breasts and gnashing of teeth over the supposedly botched execution in Oklahoma. For the sake of this observation I’m going to put aside any feelings regarding the validity of capital punishment and deal strictly with the reported facts. Yes, no one with any solid moral compass wants to see even a heinous criminal forced to suffer an extended execution attempt. But in all the hew and cry regarding this situation what about the victim and her family? The poor young girl was abducted, raped repeatedly, shot in the head and then buried alive! When the media rushed to publish their ugly accounts of the effects of capital punishment I saw virtually no mention of what the killer’s victim endured let alone how her death impacted her family and friends. In this case I believe the news media allowed their reporting of the details of the ‘botched’ execution to completely drown out what he had done to his young and innocent victim. In essence they allowed themselves to make a poor judgment in covering the story. Of course I’m cynical enough to also believe they deliberately slanted what they reported to push their own agenda which is against capital punishment and seems to favor the criminal’s rights over those of the victim. And, yes, I just made a raft of judgments, didn’t I..? I firmly believe that we humans need to make judgments to not just survive but also to thrive; the real secret is to make ‘wise’ judgments based in wisdom and experience but tempered with the right amount of empathy and understanding.

  3. Very energetic article, I enjoyed that bit. Will there be a part 2?

    • Thanks for the kind words! I’ve started a second blog site on Word Press (outtathebox.in) where I’ll be posting blogs of this nature. I decided to do this because I wanted ‘talkeetnatraces.com’ to remain true to its original intent which was to chronicle the learnings and adventures of a 60 year old guy who spent his first 59 years living urban in the lower 48 before making the huge shift to a rural lifestyle in south central Alaska. There will still be some overlap and that’s okay; I just wanted to separate my opinion based writings on politics, philosophy and similar from my creations centering upon my new life. I have received a lot of interesting feedback on the ‘Judging’ piece so I am working on a follow up; when finished I will post on the ‘outtathebox.in’ page. Thanks for taking the time to read my posting!

    • Just posted the ‘part two’ of this topic on ‘outtathebox.in’…

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    • Thanks for reading and please feel free to share with any and everyone! The original piece was on ‘talkeetnatraces.com’ and the follow up is on ‘outtathebox.in’; both are my blog sites

  6. I comment each time I appreciate a post on a site or if
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    And on this post Judging – All Too Human | Rualli. I was actually excited enough to post a thought :
    ) I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s okay.

    Is it simply me or does it appear like a few of these responses appear like coming from brain dead
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    Would you make a list all of your community sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

    • I’d like to help ya out but I’ve dropped all my social media connections largely because I became so frustrated with the incessant whining and the uncivilized vitriol. I recent dropped my ‘LinkedIn’ account because I’ve been retired for eight years now. Most everyone knows I can be contacted via email or through the blog or my second site: outtathebox.in. I use it mainly for my discourse on the sad state of affairs involving the world, the American culture and our society. Hope this is of some help..!

  7. I enjoy, lead to I found exactly what I used to be looking for.
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