Search This Blog

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don't Judge Me

 "Don't Judge Me", together with "I'm not Judging" is a phrase I am hearing more and more often, both in Christian and in secular circles. Now I think I get what people are trying to communitcate and I suspect (please correct me if I am wrong in your case) that mostly "don't judge me" means "don't think badly of me". Which is a perfectly legitimate sentiment though it does seem to suggest that the speaker already thinks poorly of his own actions or oppinions. What worries me is the fact that the two statements are being used interchangeably and I can't think of many reasons why that should be.
  There may be an assumption that all judgement is negative. Which is odd, but no more so than many of the unreflected ideas we carry around most of the time. Of course some judgement can positive; even in popular culture we see judges giving encouraging reviews in all sorts of competition. On this interpretation, the phrase would seem to mean something more like :"don't think badly of me for doing the thing that makes me think badly of myself". And that is an old if largely indefensible sentiment. If I think that I am a very bad person, that does not mean that I want anyone else to think of me as a very bad person but it does mean that I have no good reason to ask anyone to think of me as better than I believe myself to be.
  Alternately, I suppose someone could use "don't judge me" in a more precise way, they may really and impossibly, asking the world not to come to any conclusions about their actions. Maybe I used "impossibly" in haste, there may be some of you out there who can see a friend or aqcuaintance doing or saying the sort of thing for which they say "don't judge me" and not come to any conclusions about whether or not their actions are good or bad.
 I can't.
Fair warning to everyone I know: I judge you. I judge you all the time. Granted, I have judged most of you as being pretty cool folks but nonetheless, I am judging you all the time and I'm not likely to stop.
  And if that weren't enough, I happen to think that my proclivity for judging is a good thing. As a matter of fact I have a lot of trouble even imagining a world in which suff just happend and people just did things and I didn't have any opinion as to whether it was all good or bad. And I think that I'm in pretty good (and bad) company here.
  Regardless of it's quality, my company is certainly numerous. Sartre and Nietzche, even Hume all assumed that we are forever judging things, although they disagree with each other - and certainly with my own view - as to what judgements we ought to reach. Heck Nietzche, who called for a re-imagining of all values, still seemed to beleive (one is never on firm ground trying to insist that Nietzche definitely believed any particular thing) that the strong should judge (albeit according to their own systems of value); while Sartre lamented that we are doomed to invent standards of judgement for ouselves and then live our lives knowin that they were essentially arbitrary. On the other side of things, C.S. Lewis (you didn't think I could write my first post in months without mentioning him did you) certainly beleived that we are naturally prone to judge thoughts actions and speech. He believed that we judge the world by the tao, the basic way of all existence, that the Natural Law was real and that good and wise people judge their environments as either conforming to or diverging from it.
  And I think this draws out the important distiction between "don't judge me" and "don't think badly of me". Ignoring the possiblity of positive judgement and granting for a second that the judgement in question would be negative, the disastrous assumption people seem to be making is that judging someone's actions or words to be bad means loving them or valuing them less. But that does not follow at all. I am fully convinced that I think, say and do bad things all the time. Go ahead and judge me, it's fine, just don't love me any less, don't value me any less for it. No matter what you think, you probably won't think that I am half as bad a person as I know myself to be, and I still value myself alot.
  You see, I think we have forgotten (both Christians and seculars) that there is no contradiction in saying that people have infinite value and terrible moral character. The two are not interdependent. The problem is that when we conflate judgement and love we end up losing either the ability to acknowledge reality (it was very bad for Bob to gossip to me about Henry), or we end up hating and devaluing beings of infinite worth.
  So when people ask me not to judge them I have a bit of trouble. I guess you could say I'm judging you for asking me not to judge you. I just love you, that's all.


  1. Thanks for posting Bill... I love how you summed this up "Go ahead and judge me, it's fine, just don't love me any less, don't value me any less for it. No matter what you think, you probably won't think that I am half as bad a person as I know myself to be, and I still value myself alot." - it's like a deep exhale to be reminded of how weak we are even with all this unfathomable glory the Father is bestowing on us. It's good to judge ourselves and make judgments about the world with no threat to our self worth. <>

  2. Love the review of philosophy. Love your own. Great conclusion. Good work!

  3. I think that in the religious society you are exactly right. Being caught in a circle of guilt tends to make people defensive about their pet "sins". In secular society I think the terms could translate to something more along the lines of "you don't have a right to look down on me because you are just another person with an opinion." I'm not saying that secular people don't suffer from guilt, but statistically speaking they suffer much less. I agree with you that we all judge people all the time we have to, its part of our survival skills. I think what people are asking when they ask anyone to "not judge them" is for us to stop and think critically for a moment before we decide what kind of person they are. Especially on the internet.

  4. Thanks for writing this, honey! Love you!