The fine 80’s movie “War Games” not only included the classic line “I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it’d do any good,” but it also taught us a lesson: In global thermonuclear war, the only winning move is not to play.
Likewise, it is generally so with judgment. “Judge not lest ye be judged” is a fine turn of phrase, even if it didn’t come from “War Games.” That whole “Do unto others” thing is pretty catchy too, and applicable to judgment.
Judgment is admittedly inescapable. Your brain is a thinking machine. All it knows how to do is think, and much of that thinking is forming opinions on the world around you. You’ve got to remember, though, that you are in charge of your thoughts. They are not in charge of you.
When you learn of someone else’s actions, and your immediate reaction is to judge that person harshly (and probably tell everyone within earshot what an awful person they are) take some time to think it through: Why is it that you feel it necessary to judge another’s conduct as wrong? Then take some more time and think it through again. What is it that you don’t know? The list of what you don’t know about someone else is endless, but how about a couple of important ones: What they are going through now, and what their life history is.
The old Native American phrase about walking a mile in another’s moccasins before criticizing covers it pretty well. It’s awfully easy to skip that step and say someone is wrong for some particular conduct. If you think that way, you sort of presume that everyone has experienced and is experiencing the world in the same way as you. What hubris!
Everyone makes mistakes. Most people make a number of big ones. I’ve heard people declare someone else to be a “bad person” because of something that person did. Wrong. All people are tremendously flawed. That includes you, and me, and everyone else. If you refuse to cop to even that, then you and I don’t have a lot to talk about on this topic. If you accept that all people are inherently flawed, and that everyone makes mistakes, then making mistakes and being flawed and doing regrettable things does not make you a bad person, it makes you a normal person!
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” is another good aphorism. Think you’ve got the moral high-ground to sit in judgment of others? Then either you’re in tremendous denial about yourself, or you’re a budding sociopath. It’s unfortunate when people seek to make themselves feel better by trying to tear others down, but it happens all too often.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’m going to reserve judgment?” That, in my opinion, is an excellent tact to take in most situations. I don’t expect people not to make judgments, but perhaps holding back on making that judgment final is a good (and compassionate) idea. This is sometimes very hard to do, for me included, but we’d all get along in this world better if we tried to apply ourselves to this mission.