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.