being judgemental

bridge into the unknown

bridge into the unknown

According to my teacher, it is impossible not to be judgemental. At the lowest level, mind is conceptualizing everything. To conceptualize, we have to classify, order or grade the object. Mind nearly always looks at something in ways of this being beneficial or its opposite, or something being neutral. It will try to discern truth from lie. Discernment might be synonymous to judgement. But semantically they are apparently different.

[added after OM’s revealing comment:] … I have a language problem. In French, “Jugement” is quite neutral. But apparently the word judgemental has to do with disapproval and condemnation. In the Oxford dictionary, judgement is also seen as neutral in the first place, while the 2nd entry talks about condemning.

Not being a native English speaker myself and the teacher having an Asian background, I suppose our misunderstanding comes from the semantics connecting judgement and discernment in our own languages.
OM contributed to this article by commenting the following:

Some of us find it very useful to acknowledge the similarities between judging and discerning, and also to focus on the distinction or differences, which can be crucially important. Judgment is about the nature of something; discernment is factual assessment of the practical impact of something on ourselves.

We are not judging a truck coming down the road when we discern that it could harm us if we step in front of it. We need not condemn a person as bad or evil, when we discern that they have violent tendencies and that we would do well to stay out of their way. I am not judging a tomato when I discern that my body is allergic to it and that I need to not eat it.

The difference between judgment and discernment makes a big difference in our own happiness, and helps alleviate some guilt which tends to appear when the difference is blurred.

I think it is entirely possible for someone to live without judging; that is what spiritual growth can enable. However, it is not possible for someone to live without discerning; they wouldn’t survive very long walking off cliffs, and in front of trucks, and eating rotten food, and walking in front of a gun being shot.

Judgment is a condemnation (or praise) of the very nature of something; discernment is seeing clearly how it might affect us, and acting accordingly given our values. Judgment locks us into a reality which is why it is undesirable; discernment is freer to change with the shifting realities of each moment.

If we are open minded, we will judge less negatively. If we are closed minded, we will judge in a more negative way.

In both cases we will discern, but when closed-minded, we will often be judgemental.

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22 thoughts on “being judgemental

  1. Thank you for reading my blog. I will follow yours and invite you to follow mine. I speak no French-a little espaniol…but it seems you do well in english and I congratulate you on that. beebeesworld

  2. It’s interesting how language, as well as personal experience/perception, colors the communication. I understand and appreciate your post. Before reading it, I might have said discernment was through my mind and judgement was through my emotion. Interesting to reflect on this.

    • Thank you for this reflection. There is a lot more to say about judgment and being judgmental than what has been brought forward here. Can one be judgmental about food? How is being judgmental connected to personal taste … etc. But i will let this rest for the moment and come back to it in a couple of months.

  3. This apparent difficulty stems from the two meanings of the word “judgemental”. Lets clarify it this way: take “being judgmental” to be (1) making an assessment and (2) making an assessment and being negatively critical of that assessment.
    If we consider the act as a a simple assessment it is not judgmental.
    Here is an extract from The Milk Is White”:

    Judgement or Observation?
    In respect to being judgemental there is a difference between a judgement and an observation. When one is judgemental, one puts a value on an observation – it becomes a value judgement – whereas, when one makes an observation no value is put on it; one is thinking or stating a fact (as one sees it).

    • Hi Ian !!!! That is an excellent distinction, and I take it even further. A discernment IS neither a judgment NOR a simple observation. There IS a value placed, but it is not on the thing discerned as a whole and forever. It is an assessment of the relationship of benefit or harm to oneself.

      It is more than an observation that the fire from a candle can burn my hand and hurt or kill me, but I sure don’t regard the fire itself as bad, evil, or even good.

      I discern it CAN burn me if I put my hand into it, and that that would be harmful to my well-being. I see that as more than a statement of fact, which would be “fire burns” and that truly is just a fact. But the fact that a burn would harm my well-being, goes beyond that, it seems to me anyway. Fire burning wood in the stove, would be a different discernment, a positive effect on my well-being.

      But I suppose one could argue that harm or benefit is simply another “fact” and not a value-statement. To me, it is a value-statement if my “value” is “life.”

  4. Great article, Bert! I agree wholly with OM’s second comment – the crux of the matter is that we label things, give them tags, and then we don’t really “see” them with an innocent mind – so we only see them through our filters of the past. (See Krishnamurti for more on this theme.) Wishing you beautiful days in this time of Beginning New for us all! Love, Tomas

      • Yes, Krishnamurti is one who has been able to point me in a direction of understanding how we got to where we are in our crazy, delusional state of consciousness. A pivotal book of his, “This Light in Oneself” 133 pages that lead me into a deep understanding of our plight and how to step out of it. He has been one of those that I call “original thinkers” who don’t fit into any box and who have given me immense insights for my own understanding. It took me years, back in the 70’s – to realize I needed to LIVE what I was understanding, not just lap it up intellectually.
        Best wishes for 2013 in Peace, Love and Understanding!
        Tomas

  5. I try hard to not be judgmental. I don’t always succeed, so I guess I am open-minded. It’s not that I try to see the positive; I truly believe it exists; God is in every situation and, in my mind, God is positive and wonderful and love, so then is every situation.
    Scott

  6. Thanks for focusing on this important topic, Bert. Some of us find it very useful to acknowledge the similarities between judging and discerning, and also to focus on the distinction or differences, which can be crucially important. Judgment is about the nature of something; discernment is factual assessment of the practical impact of something on ourselves.

    We are not judging a truck coming down the road when we discern that it could harm us if we step in front of it. We need not condemn a person as bad or evil, when we discern that they have violent tendencies and that we would do well to stay out of their way. I am not judging a tomato when I discern that my body is allergic to it and that I need to not eat it.

    The difference between judgment and discernment makes a big difference in our own happiness, and helps alleviate some guilt which tends to appear when the difference is blurred.

    I think it is entirely possible for someone to live without judging; that is what spiritual growth can enable. However, it is not possible for someone to live without discerning; they wouldn’t survive very long walking off cliffs, and in front of trucks, and eating rotten food, and walking in front of a gun being shot.

    Judgment is a condemnation (or praise) of the very nature of something; discernment is seeing clearly how it might affect us, and acting accordingly given our values. Judgment locks us into a reality which is why it is undesirable; discernment is freer to change with the shifting realities of each moment.

    Does that make sense, to realize that distinction?

    • Thank you very much. I think we have a language problem. In French, “Jugement” is quite neutral.
      If I read you well the word “judgemental” has to do with disapproval. (what in my last paragraph I connected with closed-mindedness).
      In the Oxford dictionary, judgement is also seen as neutral in the first place, while the 2nd entry talks about condemning.
      Not being a native English speaker myself and the teacher having an Asian background, I suppose our misunderstanding comes from the semantics connecting judgement and discernment in our own languages.
      I also don’t understand why my spell checker keeps adding the ‘e’ after the ‘g’ in judgemental. Is judgemental less negative in England than judgmental is over the ocean?

      • The way New-Age people throw the term “judgment” around when they are so judgmental about being judgmental (haha), it almost always connotes a negative judgment, but in my comment, I noted it can include praise. I don’t think for anyone here, it is a neutral term. It has to be negative or positive, to qualify as “judgment.”

        The more sophisticated New-Age teachers recognize that the problem they see with judgment is NOT that it is about condemning or disapproving; it is a blanket locked-in characterization of the Beingness of what is being judged. The problem they see IOW is really epistemological, not emotional. Judging stops us from ever really looking at the thing or person again — in your terms, it is closed-minded, whether positive or negative, and THAT’s what makes it not conducive to expanding states of awareness/spiritual growth.

        And that’s what makes it different from discernment, which also can be negative, positive, or neutral, but is constantly being updated, so it is “open-minded.”.

        Does that make sense?
        .
        The quirks of spell-checkers, that is interesting!

        • This comment is difficult to understand for me, as i have never met NA people. I think they are kind a rare here where I live, or perhaps the Universe prevents me from seeing them – big smile :-).

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