We are all judgmental. It is a natural fact, and it is a key part of our ability to survive on a most basic and primal level. So why is it then, that extending judgement to evaluate the character or actions of others can get such a bad rap in a society that is more reliant on these things for success than on the presence of physical threats? Why is it that when someone, for one reason or another, finds offence to take from a conclusion another human surmises, the latest and greatest ‘go-to’ retort is simply to appropriately identify that a judgment has been made, and to identify the offending party as ‘judgmental’ in a snivelling, childish manner? First of all, is this truly an insult? It appears to me that sound judgment serves to advantage one more than anything, so where precisely does the implied insult stem from? Second, are people truly that afraid of the (subjective) truth, that they will attempt to turn its existence into an insult on the harbinger of it?
I think that the key is to differentiate between an informed critical assessment and a personal bias. Of course the former often begets the latter, but the two things are by no means mutually exclusive. Personal bias can stem from ignorance and emotions, or it can remain somewhat open-minded as a stance that is based on genuine and fair consideration of facts. Furthermore, when an opinion is relayed to one – without malice or prejudice – one must examine the motives behind the expression of the opinion or judgment in question. No one likes the truth (of others’ opinions of them), but if it appears that this ‘truth’ is food for thought, then accepting it without lashing out would be a good start to considering it fairly.
When I make a judgment, and am willing to openly state it, it is because I believe myself to have acquired all relevant facts and I have actually critically examined an issue. I stand by my judgments, regardless of whether they reflect moral and practical reasons about why Susie should not be lying, or Jonny should not be cheating on his spouse, etc., and implications to Suzy’s and Jonny’s characters that may or may not come along with these judgments. I realise that while I may subscribe to my own brand of Kantian-based ethics and principles, others may evaluate a set of circumstances differently from me, – based on their own sets of principles, priorities, and ethics.
I’m not about to apologise for my own rational assessments of the world around me, and I certainly do not expect others to do so either (‘rational’ being the key word here, otherwise – fair game to criticize). If you believe that assessment of actions and character can be divorced and assessed independently from one another, then I will probably agree with you on some occasions. Even if I do not, I can respect your personal stance if it has been considered rationally. But who cares? Does it really matter if we can agree? No. Does your life change in any way just because I have arrived at my own conclusions about your actions and character? Nope. Does my life change in any way if you don’t approve of my actions or character? No again. Can we respect one another’s stances on the matter? Well, – maybe we can. Let’s put our ‘big boy’ and ‘big girl’ pants on and evaluate the manner in which these conclusions are arrived rather than focusing on hurt feelings, because I will not respect you if you cannot at least manage to do this.
At the end of the day, diversity is a part of what makes us all human.
Rational thought is what separates us from monsters, though. Without it, we allow diversity to divide us. With it, these differences can actually bring us together and move us forward to learn and develop both individually and as a collective.