"You have no right to judge"

I've gotten to the point where that phrase really bothers me. I appreciate the sentiment, but not necessarily the intent behind the statement.

The sentiment, as I perceive it, is this: No one should allow first impressions, even negative ones, to keep them from treating a person with the dignity and respect all humans deserve, because none of us have any way to know the situation a stranger is in or the reasons and causes for their actions.

The way it comes across, and the intent that sometimes comes with it, however, is "I am going to make a judgment that you are morally corrupt and inferior because you perceive this situation differently than I do and I don't think you're being fair and it makes me angry and makes me think less of you." Which, needless to say, is rather hypocritical.

First of all, I do have a right to judge. We all have that right, and we all exercise it. We all make judgments based on our immediate perception of a person and/or their actions. That doesn't make is wrong. It's a natural human instinct that helps us maintain caution and awareness around strangers. There's a whole evolutionary explanation for it that I read once, but I don't think I understood it well enough to try to demonstrate it here. The point is, we all make those judgments, and it's not making them that is harmful, but letting them interfere with our treatment of that person and/or not giving them a chance to change our minds.

Second, even if I don't know the exact details of a person's situation, there are still going to be times when the way they present themselves or the actions they take in front of me make me wary of them, frustrated with them, hesitant to like or trust them, or any number of other things. Yes, those count as judgments. That's okay. For anyone, not just for me. I'm not a special snowflake.

It's okay to see someone behaving a certain way and go, "Wow, why would you do that? I think that's so dumb," as long as we recognize that those are only our perceptions. If I learn more about the situation at hand and realize that their actions are defensible and forgivable, I will definitely change my mind. I'm not closing my mind forever to someone because I didn't like my first impression of them.

But to treat me with less respect and dignity for making those judgments is, ta-da, judgmental, in and of itself, and that makes this whole argument over whose-judging-is-acceptible-and-whose-is-a-moral-failing seem altogether silly.
January 8th, 2013 at 11:40pm