Is All Judgment Equally Wrong?

People are frequently accused of being judgmental on this board, particularly when they do something perceived as mean and insensitive.

Current example that inspired this thread.

So Doper A will say, ‘‘Oh, shame on your for being so mean!’’ and then Doper B will inevitably reply, ‘‘You’re being just as judgmental by judging the mean person!’’ and then Doper C will say, ‘‘Both Doper A and B are judging each other! Freakin’ hypocrites!’’ ad nauseum.

I’m not gonna lie; I judge people on this board all the damn time. I’m not proud of it, but there are certain attitudes that make me want to punch something. These are usually people who fall onto the spectrum of ‘‘mean as hell’’ – call me crazy, but I don’t like jerks. I don’t like snarky, smarmy assholes who don’t care about anything but being right. I don’t like bigots and people who make broad generalizations about the character of others based on whether they drink bottled water or leave their shoes on in the house or are having a bad day. I don’t like people who believe certain social contexts, like the Pit, allow them to be assholes without consequence.

I’m particularly judgmental toward people who have used their experiences of hardship and suffering as an excuse to generate bitterness and meanness. For better or worse, I feel more than superior to those people–I feel outraged at their gall and personally insulted.

To reiterate: I’m not proud of this. But rationally, it seems like judgment is a requirement to build some kind of coherent structure out of the chaos of life. It appears to be a universal part of humanity, and nobody seems immune to it.

But I would take issue with the suggestion that all judgments are inherently bad, and that judging someone for judging others makes you a hypocrite. I think it’s worse to judge someone for their shoes or their race or their psychological symptoms than it is to judge them for being mean. Being mean deliberately hurts people, and the fewer hurt people we have in the world, the better. Voicing disapproval of said behavior, when done collectively, may serve as a deterrent for some who would otherwise feel free to be judgmental twats. In other words, judging mean people for being mean may prevent others from suffering. Therefore, not morally comparable to the other kind of judging.

So what do you think? What do you judge people for? How do you morally justify it? Do you think all judgment is equally wrong?

I don’t try to morally justify judging people. I try to assess what judging them does for me. Sometimes, it won’t do anything, but sometimes the judgment allows me to see where I might go wrong in the future, or where I’ve gone wrong in the past. And sometimes, the judgment just allows me to snicker at someone like when they say they have an IQ of eleventy frillion and learned to read at 3 weeks gestation.

Judging people is the only way we can really compare ethics, I think. All we can do is look at real-world examples and hold them up and inspect them from all angles and then say yea or nay.

What if being mean prevents suffering?

What about when you call Child Protective Services on a neglectful parent… or Animal Control on a neglected animal. Someone is sure to think you are being “mean and judgemental” in that situation. What if you fail to “be mean” and the child or animal then dies of the neglect. Aren’t you going to care a hell of a lot less about the hurt feelings of the other party after that? Are their “hurt feelings” really something that should be protected as the moral equivalent of a dependent life?

In my judgement, if a judgement can be judged, then the judgement of a judgement can be judged, for which judgement you can judge the judge, and yourself be judged anon.

Like all things, there’s nothing wrong with judging. It’s part of being human. Judgments are rendered everywhere from picking a slot machine at a casino, picking whom to sit next to on the subway, where to walk, what to eat, and everything else. Just don’t judge too much and you’ll be fine. Like everything else, it’s all about moderation.

Judgement is a good thing. Sharing your judgement is not, most of the time. It is absolutely fine to think someone is too fat or should stop smoking or whatever. This allows you to determine which choices you want to make in life and how you do and don’t want to appear to others. Telling other people what you think about them is not appropriate unless you are afraid for their safety or the safety of others. I promise you that the person you are going to offer your opinion to is most likely aware of the thing you’re judging them about and they don’t need to hear about it. I promise you aren’t perfect and people are judging you the same way you are judging them.

I’m an Atheist but one of my favorite parts of the bible is that bit about: “Judge not lest ye be judged yourself.”

This has to be one of the most misinterpreted verses in the bible.

What that passage means is: Whatever high standards you use to judge people are the exact same high standards you should use to judge yourself.

So basically, don’t get all uppity one someone for cheating on their wife when you’ve done the exact same thing yourself.

There’s a difference between judging a person and judging their actions. You are more likely to have the knowledge necessary to judge a single action, but not the entire life of a person. When I am calling someone judgmental, I am saying they don’t have all the facts necessary to make their judgment.

I think it’s a little more than that. It also includes not judging for things you might do. People have a tendency to not realize how difficult it can be to overcome temptation in the moment. People will often say “Well, I’d never do that,” but, when the opportunity arises, they justify doing the same thing themselves. The idea is that they shouldn’t do that as the judgment they pronounced against the other person now applies to them as well.

If the verse meant that we could not judge anyone, it would contradict itself–Jesus was himself judging the religious leaders of the time for doing what Shakes and I said. The common interpretation is as contradictory as saying “This sentence is a lie.”

I think judgement is wrong if it makes you discard a person.

Do I judge my Idiot Aunt a racist? Yes. Does it mean I’m not speaking to her any more? No. Among other things, because if I stopped talking to her, I wouldn’t be able to show her the error of her ways: she’s been known to learn, therefore I’m willing to go on teaching. Plus, I like getting her second-hand earrings :smiley: Like everybody, she’s got good points and bad ones.

Now, does that mean when Emma decides that Karen is toxic and it’s therefore healthier for Emma to avoid contact with Karen, Emma is being “bad”? Not any more than she’d be bad if she refrained from from eating hemlock (as my father liked to say: “it’s a veggie! it’s good for you! yeah right!”). Emma is not keeping Karen from being in contact with other people who are able to deal with her.

I don’t think it’s possible not to make judgements. But like pbbth said, sharing your judgements is probably (almost always) a bad idea.* We all have ideals, morals, and a sense of ethics; there’s no way not to hold up everyone’s actions to our own convictions. It’s how we grow and learn from other’s mistakes or behaviors. We all know from experience the indignation and resentment we feel when someone judges us. To that, we must be careful not to vocally dole out judgement when its not our place. Which is almost all the time.

In other words, judgment breeds more judgement. A bitter, vicious circle that might easily devolve into hate.

OTOH, you have every right to be outraged when you witness reckless harm in whatever form. From there, I don’t think it’s wrong to admonish such behavior if you think it will help someone/something else.
*The thing about message boards, though, is it’s largely anonymous. This subverts a lot of the negative social and personal contempt that one might find IRL in being so judgmental. In fact, it might be the primary reason some people join MBs. So, I think it’s the nature of these forums to rear this particular ugly head of human nature. There’s no real life fall-out if someone feels like berating someone else on very petty (or even bigoted) grounds. It allows, and even amplifies, people’s nerve. However, I think some people just get so fed up by some other member’s behavior, they might feel that they just need to rant about them in the Pit – perhaps they think this might relieve their stress on the issue, but what it really does is cause more stress, by starting that bitter vicious circle all over again.

“Judgmental” is shaming language, plain and simple - a content-free, easy to throw accusation to put someone on the defensive. It has no logical content (someone who’s really against judging people would not thusly accuse others) and is simply a social status play.

Ditto “narrow-minded.”

Now I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. I’m not trying to offend you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just trying to help.

Any conversation that begins with one or more of these statements or something similar, is almost always followed by something that really, really should not be said.

Sharing isn’t always a good thing.

Last week when I was working at the soup kitchen/community cupboard, the volunteer next to me said, “Look at that woman, she’s here asking for diapers and she’s already pregnant again.” Smug superiority coupled with no sense of compassion for how that woman came to be in the situation she is in - that’s a “bad” judgment in my book (although I did not voice my own judgment to the nasty volunteer, other than to give her a sideways look). This nasty volunteer lady probably thinks that her attitude comes from a place of practicality, but I think she was being mean.

I’m not on board with the whole, “you are a hypocrite if you judge someone for being judgmental.”

I think that is just silly, because some things have to be judged to be discussed. And if I think you are being judgmental, or hypocritical, it is fine to point that out.

I posted in that thread, and I certainly hope, Olives, that you didn’t take my post to mean that those attacking the OP were hypocrites.

Because, like Shakes posted, I too am not a Christian but find my favorite passage of the bible deals with hypocrisy and judgment (take the plank out of your own eye before removing the splinter from your brother, paraphrasing, naturally)

For me it’s a cost/benefit analysis. Calling CPS is not ‘‘being mean’’ any more than incarcerating a serial killer is ‘‘being mean.’’ Meanness to me generally means causing someone unnecessary suffering out of pleasure or apathy. Protective measures which others might view as judgmental don’t fall under that category for me.

I agree with you, but I think there are exceptions where sharing judgment is the best option. Responding to racism or other kinds of bigotry, for example. The more social pressure there is on bigots to STFU, the less likely they are to perpetuate their irrational beliefs by brainwashing others. So I’m totally cool with calling someone on their bigotry.

And I want to make it clear, I don’t labor under any delusion that I’m perfect, or even 100% free of meanness (or bigotry, for that matter). But I own up to my own failings.

I basically agree, and it’s probably one of the single most infuriating things I see on The Dope–people making broad generalizations with little evidence for their conclusions. Aren’t we supposed to be scientists here?

But naturally, the same standards apply to me and the things I judge others for. So judgment is not very rational, I guess, and we are all hypocrites. Fine.

Very well articulated, my friend. This is where I get stuck. I’m generally of the belief that everyone makes judgments, but we really should keep these judgments to ourselves because they often hurt others and are based on faulty evidence and incorrect assumptions. However, it seems there are several people on the Dope who haven’t signed that social contract to STFU and are perfectly okay with hurting others’ feelings. To be perfectly honest, when things seem to be particularly heated on the Dope, it directly affects my mood and outlook on life. It pisses me off and interferes with my enjoyment here. Then I want to get all vocally judgy in response.

No, it was someone else who made a comment regarding this that inspired the thread. Weird thing is, I can’t find it in that thread anymore, so maybe I imagined it. Either way, I’m intrigued by the question.

Yes. In context:

Judging per se isn’t necessarily wrong, and it’s sometimes necessary. When it becomes wrong is[ul]
[li]Judging based on insufficient evidence (where if you knew the whole story, you’d come to a very different conclusion)[/li][li]Judging the person when you ought to be judging the behavior (“That was an assholish thing to do” vs. “That person’s an asshole”)[/li][li]Judgment motivated by malice rather than benelovence, or characterized by arrogance rather than humility[/li][li]Judging by inappropriate standards (though, admittedly, it’s often controversial or unclear what the appropriate standards are)[/li][li]Judging when it’s someone else’s job to judge (e.g. “junior modding”)[/li][li]Judging different people by different standards (holding others to a different standard than yourself, or holding your enemies/rivals to a different standard than your friends/allies)[/li][/ul]

In fairness, Doper B has something of a point. There’s at least some extent to which those of us who are always telling others to lay off or withhold judgment are simply playing the “I’m More Tolerant Than You” game. Now, I think this is generally less hurtful and more aesthetically pleasing than the “Look at That Fat Loser!” game, but, then, I would, wouldn’t I?

(And *now *I’m playing the “I’m more tolerant than the ‘I’m More Tolerant Than You’ Game game.” Damnit!)
ETA: . . . been playing this game for a while, actually.