By Chris Leavenworth
To abstain from judging others is an ecumenical principle most decent people try to abide by and rarely question. No one likes being judged, so most people agree that it’s a good thing not to do—unless, of course, they’ve been judged charitably or they’re making an approving assessment of somebody else. Then it’s not even considered an exception to the rule. Most people don’t intuitively view a positive judgment of someone to be judging at all.
Judging is typically only recognized as making a critical assumption about a person. The idea received a bad rap from people who negatively judge large groups of people based on race, sexuality, income or some other ambiguous trait—details that are entirely useless for making a meaningful deduction about the character of a large group of people or a person.
There are those who assume the worst about everyone they meet and seek negative patterns to assign to anyone they’re determined not to like. This, too, is obviously not a rational or good way to utilize judgment and possibly another reason why people preach against it.
Any sensible person should make the distinction between bigoted and unfair assumptions and simply making a rational call on someone. Judging someone is nothing more than acknowledging something about a person’s true character. I believe that a critical judgment of another person is perfectly acceptable when supported by enough evidence.
A person is judged rationally by observing visible and verifiable patterns about his or her character.
Harsh judgment of a person’s character should result in nothing more than whatever it takes to avoid the person, if possible. And, occasionally, it permits calling someone out on his or her bullshit. Unless someone has somehow become an actual inconvenience to you or others, or it’s someone you care about who’s asking your honest opinion, it’s better to keep judgmental thoughts to yourself, where they are most useful.
Important attributes about ourselves can be revealed by observing others. Unpleasant traits I sometimes see in others, I am sometimes able to find in myself. When I’m being honest, I witness firsthand how unsavory the behavior truly is. If anything, it motivates me to work on myself.
Sometimes observing and acknowledging someone’s character reveals nothing but beauty. Knowing that someone is genuinely a good person is a reward in itself. Emulating admirable traits of somebody else is a great exercise to becoming a better person.
There is always something to learn from others by observing good and bad traits honestly.
Anyone who rejects negative feedback and refuses to practice self‑awareness lives with his or her head buried in the sand. No one is allowed to judge them. They might say something like, “Only God can judge me!” There’s a cost we must all pay for people who are out of touch with reality and demand that no one recognize their lack of self awareness.
Their priority is not becoming a better person and they resent those who will actively take constructive criticism. They see it as a show of weakness—or admitting defeat—to be receptive to the possibility of being wrong. For some awful reason, they equate stubbornly holding onto a position with validity for it.
For good or for bad, everyone will be judged by others, in many cases unfairly and without objectivity. To think otherwise is profoundly naive.
If a person with a wood plank in their eye can somehow see clearly enough to notice the splinter in my eye, he is in a position to judge me accurately about the splinter in my eye. Asserting that one cannot judge or be judged completely undermines the value of accountability.
Not every negative trait is enough to consider someone a bad person though. Often a person has more redeeming qualities than flaws. It’s up to each person to decide what he or she is willing to put up with.
Not only do I maintain that judging people is a good thing to do, I’m convinced we do it all the time without even considering it. Being aware of this, it’s crucial to focus on making fair judgment and that our faculty to judge is always improving. Before resolving a conclusion, the judgment must be substantiated with rational and accurate connections.
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