You judge me. I judge you. I judge me. You judge you. I judge how I think you judge me. You judge how you think I judge you. Societies judge you. Societies judge societies. It is a process of false self-validation, that once you judge others, you think you can rise above reprieve to the elevated rank of ‘caster of stones’… even if only very temporarily because, as we know, those who cast stones always seem to live in the wrong type of house for it.
The funny thing is, as we will see, almost all judgment is rendered invalid in the end (unless it falls under the class of ‘discernment’).
But judgment still stings. It eventually hurts both parties, the judger and the judgee, almost always unnecessarily. It’s why we buy pets, because they rarely judge, (except cats… cats do judge (or am I being judgmental)). If pets do judge, there is usually sufficient Zen in that relationship to let it slide (or insufficient shared labelling of actions and emotions called language (in fact, language is a huge problem, to be discussed another day). It’s why Byron Katie says that dogs are happier than their owners. Pets are one of our rare vacations from judgment.
Yet we often thrive on judgment. We can’t wait to drive that brand-new BMW down the school pick-up line, past the majority of cheaper (better built) Japanese and Korean makes. “The looks on their faces!” It’s a boost to the delicate ego, until you see the latest Mercedes in the rear-view mirror only a few months later. “Damn. I wonder when that all-chrome Maserati is being released… That’ll show them!” It’s the never-ending cycle of comparison, what we often call keeping up with the Joneses (or trying to (because you never really can (sorry if your name really is ‘Jones’))).
And, by the end of this article (or even by now) you may decide that this is all just baloney, or at least badly written. More judgment. If so, ask yourself which rules are you basing this judgment on? And where did you learn these rules? This article is certainly not written like others. It is not journalistic. It is not a traditional essay. It breaks some of the rules that you know form a normal, sensical argument. Are you judging just because you are experiencing something you’re not used to? And who am I to tell people that their judgment is, and has always been, off-kilter? Well, I suppose I’m a person who now questions rules, or more specifically, where you found them and how they were formed in the first place. So, should you.
In fact, I’m just one simple human who tried society’s rules, and found them fun and useful on the surface, for a while. I actually thrived on the rules in my 20’s because society’s rules are mostly money driven, as are young men and women. Perfect. But youth is fleeting, so a decade or so later I wanted to try something more meaningful, something less extrinsically rewarding.
I’d discovered that modern society’s rules were created by nobody-knows-who, and I had reached a point where I wanted to try out no rules or, at least, those that were created by I-knew-who (and-why).
‘How did that go?’, you may ask. Well, I gave away banking and took a 180° career turnaround. I heard an influential chap say that the world needed more story-tellers, so I tried writing (and study).
I wrote sporadically, formed a writing group, started a post-graduate course in literature and tried the art, and sometimes the craft. I finished a few things, but left most unfinished. I got close to success. A script I co-wrote attracted a well-known international comedian as its showrunner and an international production company. Another script received great feedback from a writer’s guild. Both faded over time. I wrote a YA novel and started planning its publication, but that didn’t fit perfectly into family life. Eventually I drifted away from calling myself a writer to just part-time Dad, part-time student, part-time house-husband and part-time every-thing-else. Labels created by nobody-knows-who to help society understand where I should fit in, which was nowhere in particular.
Addressing all of these judgments was impossible. There were too many from too many people. There became only a few possible solutions: join the Joneses, find the funny side, or let it slide! Given that joining the Joneses was not an option (anymore), I thought I would consider the alternatives in more detail.
I still wanted to be a writer, but it was better I kept this to myself. I suppose it was karma for all the judging I had dished out in my time, but telling people that you want to be a writer often produced raised eyebrows and sideward glances. This was true of some family members, friends and often general acquaintances (and of course there were the non-judgers… Thank you!). There was an instant realisation that I was seeking a life of apparent leisure and now wished to shun the traditional roles handed down to me by society, even though ‘writing’ is something that many secretly aspire to (though few are willing to chance their careers on). If they are not willing to risk it, what gave me the right? And why did I leave my last career? Obviously, it was failure, right?
Given all these leading questions and judgments, what was there to do about it?
‘Letting It Slide’!
It’s actually easy-ish to let it slide. First, stop judging.
Then, just stop being judged. Once you realise how ridiculous judgment is, judgment falls away on its own. You may need to keep reminding yourself to do so, but simply being aware of judgment, like any addiction, is the first step.
As we will see, most judgment is based on very little actual information. As Alan Watts has said, even if we do have all of the data (information overload), we often make the same, bad decisions anyway. Let’s see how this works…
Firstly, there is judgment-based-on-no-data whatsoever. Because judgment needs labels let’s call this J-BOND. This is how most people choose race horses… by their names.
Next is judgment-based-on-very-little-information or J-BOLD. This is judgment of ‘a book by its cover’.
A similar category (and not mutually exclusive) is judgment-based-on-misinformation or J-BOM. Do pharmaceutical studies ring a bell? The media perhaps? What about pharmaceutical studies reported by the media?
Unfortunately, these last two make up almost the entire universe of judgment. Knowing this can come as a huge relief. I mean, all that weight you’ve been carrying around… all based on basically nothing or the wrong things.
And finally, there is the judgment-based-on-all-available-data-and-you-make-erroneous-knee-jerk-decisions anyway, or JBOAADAYMEKJDA (OK, enough with the acronyms!). Assuming you have all the information there is available, what schema, which rules, which paradigms will you apply? You’ll need judgment just to decide the rules themselves and we all now know how judgment works now, so it’s almost impossible to contrive. Dr. Google is probably the closest example of this. In this day-and-age, we all have the same access to information as medical professionals, which is all known information (which is dwarfed by that which we don’t know (which is yet another question for another day)). The self-diagnoses of our illnesses are always laughable. Thanks to the world wide web, I once gave myself ‘fibromyalgia’, which then caused ‘severe acute anxiety’, and so on. As soon as I had realised that I was only suffering from Google-itis (or hypochondria on steroids) I was cured.
To summarise, the vast majority of judgment is based on very little data, or misinformation and is thus, badly formed. That is not to say that the right decision is not made anyway. In a two-horse race, you’ll back a winner around half the time. But the decision-making process is severely broken. For proof of this simply buy today’s newspaper, check the front page and ask yourself ‘How much data was processed to form this article?’, ‘Was it all available data?’, ‘If so, is that enough data?’ , ‘Even with all the available data, was the right judgment formed?’ and ‘Was the author swayed by public opinion, their own opinion or their newspaper’s political mandate?’ Very few articles will fall outside of judgment-based-on-little-information and are thus ‘misinformation’ by default.
If you then based your judgment of the topic on said article, then you are simply spreading even more judgment-based-on-misinformation.
So now that we understand the ludicrous nature of judgment, what will you do when you, the ‘judgee’, are judged next? You might tell the ‘judger’ that their judgment is based on very little information. This is usually met with argument at the very least, or even aggression (or confusion if you accuse them of J-BOLDING (even I’ve forgotten what that acronym means, and I invented it)).
Or you might tell them nothing, content with the realisation that it was a judgment-based-little-information or -misinformation, and just let it slide like water off a duck’s back.
But if letting it slide doesn’t cut it, then look for the funny side of it. Make a joke of it. Join in on the judgment, but put your own twist on it. Own it. If you are going to be labelled (or mis-labelled), then make it your label or your version of the label. Be the author of society’s label of you, and make the most of it. At least that’s what I think you should do, but who am I to judge?
‘Now hold on a second… If judgment is so often badly executed, how am I to make decisions?’ A word that is currently being thrown around is ‘Discernment’. My first reaction was that there is no difference between judgment and discernment. But it turns out there most certainly is. Let’s talk about ‘Discernment’ in our next article. See you next week.