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To Judge ... Or Not

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

A conversation with one of my daughters today reminded me that I wanted to delve into the concept of judgement. What sparked my initial thought was an incident at work some time ago where two people from differing religious backgrounds shall we say forcefully gave their opinions on a colleague’s lifestyle choices.

While I have my own opinions on many topics, as do we all, when is it appropriate to express those opinions, or perhaps more apt, express our judgement on another’s life.

To say that we shouldn’t judge is a bit naïve. We all make judgements. We judge who we want to associate with, for example. In ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, Draco Malfoy said “You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.” Harry says, “I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.”

This is Harry making a judgement. We all do this. We all choose our friends based on our own set of values. Is this wrong?

Not really.

In a world filled with diverse perspectives, beliefs, and lifestyles, the act of judgment is often centre stage in our lives. We are constantly making judgements: what food to eat, what clothes to wear, should I stay in my job or look for another, and even who to associate with. Judgement is a fact of life.

However, while this is true, what isn’t true is that we have the right to force our judgements, beliefs and lifestyles on another, and certainly degrading someone whose beliefs etc don’t align with ours is just not on.

There is a place for healthy debate and discussion about a wide range of topics. This isn’t the same as the scenario mentioned above, though. Sharing ideas, beliefs, and perspectives can help us be more tolerant of each other.

I am a religious person, and as such, I will put a religious slant on this topic. A New Testament verse admonishes us to "Judge not, that ye be not judged". Following verses explain further that we will be judged by God by the same principles with which we judge others. My personal understanding of this is that we can explore the deeper meaning behind these words and think about how they can guide us towards being more compassionate and understanding of others.

As with all scripture, a little pondering is needed in order to understand the context in which it was given, to consider its broader intent. The reminder that we will be judged according to how we judge others isn’t meant to instil fear in us. Rather it is to encourage self-reflection and humility. When we judge others, we are in danger of being blinded to our own imperfections, which will prevent us from showing that compassion and understanding to others that will deepen our friendships and relationships.

I am reminded of the Parable of the Moat and Beam, which speaks of the absurdity of trying to remove a speck of dust from someone else’s eye while our own eyesight is hindered by a beam, or great log, in our own. In other words, focussing on a minor fault in someone else while ignoring our own more significant flaws.

The message is clear: before we criticise or judge others, we must first examine ourselves honestly. It encourages us to see others with empathy, understanding that, just like us, they too are imperfect beings navigating the complexities of life. Rather than passing judgement, we are called to offer support, kindness, and love to those who may be struggling or making choices different from our own. And, in my opinion, if we practice empathy, understanding and love of our fellow beings, we will be less inclined to judge each other.

Practical applications to developing a non-judgemental attitude:

Self-reflection: Examine your own tendencies to judge. Are there situations or people you tend to judge more harshly? Use this awareness to foster greater self-compassion and humility.

Empathetic listening: When interacting with others, genuinely listen to their perspectives and experiences without immediately passing judgement. Seek to understand their point of view.

Practice forgiveness: This is something I have personally found to be very helpful. When we let go of grudges, resentments, and the tendency to harshly judge others, we are spiritually and emotionally lifted. Judgements are heavy burdens to carry. Forgiveness is very freeing.

Cultivate empathy: Try to put yourself in others' shoes, recognising that everyone has their own unique challenges and circumstances.

Offer support: Nothing is more humbling than seeing another’s need and helping, instead of judgement. Compassion, understanding, or just offering a kind word can make a world of difference.

It’s impractical to totally refrain from making judgements, but let’s make sure the judgements we make are the important ones, and are to aid us as we navigate life, not to pull others down. Look beyond the surface and see the humanity in everyone. We all have our own imperfections and struggles. As we practice empathy and withhold judgement, we can create a more inclusive, understanding and harmonious world for us all to live in.

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