Years ago, I considered myself to be a “non-judgmental” person. I didn’t care much about how other people lived their lives, or what they did with theirs. I was accepting of much of what people might tell me about themselves. I had my own preferences and ideals, and even opinions about what other people should probably prefer, but I prided myself on being “non-judgmental” about other people’s lives, and fairly non-critical about them.
Part of this was openness about my own life: from sex to drugs to choices others might not wish to make - I have always been willing to hear about others’ experiences and be “non-judgmental” about them. How could I not? I did and do wild things myself, and I don’t need to judge theirs.
When I first met Judd, he informed me that he’s very judgmental. “Judge and prepare to be judged!” is what he told me. Upon exploring what he meant by that, I decided it was also where I stood - but that I should probably better articulate my relationship with judgment itself.
First, a quick dictionary trip:
Judgment is “the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions”.
I realize that’s not what we tend to mean when we call someone judgmental - we’re usually thinking of condemnation - but I want to explore that for a minute.
Per the dictionary… I’m pretty damn judgmental.
You see, I judge things a lot. I judge the potential ways I can spend my time, which often includes judging the people I may be spending my time with. I judge the options before major and minor decisions. I consider various factors, and make plenty of judgments about what I will do. This applies to my lifestyle, job, schedule, clothing preferences, aesthetic choices, music and more. I judge things all the time. I’m sure you do too.
I also judge them regarding other people. I see friends make decisions I wouldn’t make, and sometimes I question their judgment. I judge their choices, whether for good or ill. I judge their partners, their methods of asking their bosses for raises, the way they complain about work, or their behaviors after a breakup. I judge fellow Twitter and Facebook users for their takes, I judge people I work with in political and professional contexts, I judge my fellow Libertarians. Some of my most viral content on Facebook is articulating two sides of some drama (usually political), providing facts and evidence and arguments for both sides, and then presenting a carefully considered conclusion.
I am, in fact, wicked judgmental.
But yet, I consider myself a very open person who isn’t here to “judge” you. I consider myself someone you can tell secrets to, someone you can express deep feelings of uncertainty or potential shame to, and I’d say people would describe me as someone who isn’t going to “judge” them for sharing their weaknesses, their shames, their hopes, or their worries. Because I do not condemn.
I would like to think that’s an accurate representation of me. I will say things like “no judgement here” and that’s sort of true. But it also isn’t. I have a highly considerate mind that is constantly forming opinions and taking in information and building conclusions - both negative and positive ones.
If you tell me you did something you admit was “stupid”, I’ll probably agree it was (to some extent). I might decide that on a particular topic I trust you a little less because of your decision making. Yet, you’ll still be my friend, and those judgments don’t reflect much on my consideration of your value as a person. There are exceptions to that - there are points of self-harm or harm of others that can push me away, cause critical judgment and consequences, possibly arguments, and distance.
I still cherish generally being people’s “non-judgmental” friend - even though I actually think the word “judgment” is a tremendously valuable one that I think needs to be reclaimed in its expression of informed discernment.
Much like the word “discrimination” has a terrible reputation for its association with bigotry, prejudice and harm - its original meaning is about the recognizing and understanding of the difference(s) between one thing and another. That’s valuable.
I have “discriminating” tastes. I have careful discernment. I have plenty of judgments.
Some are overwhelmingly harsh.
Here’s a very specific example I encountered recently:
This past summer, I learned that an acquaintance of mine (who will remain unnamed, but was public on his Twitter about all of this) had a daughter who was recently 16 and pregnant. This acquaintance was himself expecting another child with a new girlfriend due soon before (December) his own daughter’s child would be due (March). This acquaintance has had a bit of a reputation for needing money and financial help over the last few years, and has been publicly attacked for allegedly not paying child support for the other children he already has. I do not know his exact financial situation nor if those rumors were true, and it’s none of my business.
I have STRONG judgments (not nice ones!) about this.
I judge him for the fact that he has exes who claim he’s not paying child support whether or not he is (because I do judge people to some extent by the choices they made in partners - particularly ones they’ve had children with).
I judge him for the possibility that he might not be paying child support (and I recognize that’s unfair when I don’t know for sure either way).
I judge him for having another child while being the non-custodial parent of several other children.
I judge him for getting a woman he’d known for less than a year pregnant.
I judge him for having a daughter who got pregnant before she was 16.
I judge him for deciding that she should keep it, when I think abortion is a blessing in these circumstances, and I think he may be ruining his daughter’s future by encouraging her to keep it.
But here’s the part where my judgments do and don’t come into play:
I generally don’t feel the need to say something to him or anyone else about it. (Exception being using the situation as an example here, my apologies, but he was open and public about it on Twitter, so it’s not like I’m violating privacy).
My inclination not to tell him what I think seems a bit ironic, given how verbose and opinionated I tend to be. However, learning that all of my personal judgments are not necessary to share with others was probably my biggest emotional development of my 20s.
That guy doesn’t need to hear my judgment of his choices (and my opinion of him probably doesn’t matter to him anyway). That guy’s choices have basically no impact on me or my life whatsoever (I guess it influences how many baby pictures are in my Twitter feed, but besides that).
Now, if he were to try to date a friend of mine, or ask me for money, or try to get a job I’m hiring for - I might be compelled to mention to him, or said friend, or other people determining whether he should get said job, why I don’t trust his decision making skills and wouldn’t want to trust him with my friend, my money, or job responsibilities. I would see all of my bullet points above as reasons I wouldn’t want him in my life in any close capacity.
Yet I can still run into him at a social gathering and exchange pleasantries. I don’t need to go naming him to others and telling them what I think. I don’t need to go telling him what I think.
It’s not important. It’s not relevant to my life, my opinions aren’t relevant to his life (unless he wants to directly ask, and even then I doubt I’ll say “your kid should’ve aborted it” because what is done is done, and if he (or his daughter) has regrets about his choices, they’ll be his own demons anyway, I don’t need to contribute to them).
This is an extreme example. However it’s part of the way I operate, and an extreme example is a good one for sharing how I look at things: my judgments are primarily for ME.
(This applies to various personal matters - obviously I share my judgments regarding public issues & figures, though I try to stick to substantive judgments like “this cop murdered a citizen during a traffic stop” or “this politician is making bad policy choices” not “here’s my judgment about their non-relevant personal life”).
Similarly, if a friend comes to me to confide sexual or drug escapades or other adventures, I’m generally going to be open to or even enthusiastic about hearing about it (since many of my judgments regarding such things are positive), with tactful advice or commentary regarding things like harm reduction. I generally process this information where one sector of my brain goes “okay, so friend is currently having issues with moderation, bookmark this information for relevant scenarios” or “friend is single and ready to mingle, introduce them to other single friends” and besides that, I’ll simply hear it, offer whatever advice is asked, and not provide judgments that aren’t relevant to them.
I find that in many cases, people need support and care, useful advice and possibly resources. I’m highly tolerant AND accepting, regardless of any of my personal judgments.
Sometimes, alternatively, people want to shock me. I get that too sometimes. I deal with a lot of trolls on the internet, and many people like to say things specifically hoping I’ll get riled up, and one of my great satisfactions is taking the wind out of their sails by not doing so.
I find it amusing and ironic that people use conservatism and “traditional values” lately as edge-lord “trigger” material, but my immunity to strong reactions to those tends to come from the same place as my “lack of judgment”. It’s not that I don’t think they’re stupid, it’s that I don’t need to tell them that.
I have an entire article in mind for how I overcame much of my “I can’t come to bed, it’s important, someone is WRONG on the internet” compulsive behavior, particularly in the past 4 years, but that’ll be for some other week. A portion of that ties into this though.
I know that I have at least a small reputation on the internet for being both verbose and opinionated.
It is my perception that the reason a larger percentage of people than not perceive me as eloquent and of good judgement is because of how often I actually abstain from sharing my words or opinions (particularly about people’s personal matters). I certainly have them. I certain think them. I certainly keep them in my mind for consideration as I make decisions.
It’s like how the notes you don’t play in a song matter too.
Withholding the expression of my various judgments because they’re for me, not for you, has enabled me to learn more by hearing more, and to say more, because I think some people are hungry for carefully considered ideas, expressed deliberately, and so they listen more closely.
I’m wicked fucking judgmental. But the judgments matter to me, not to you.
Some of my judgments will play out in how I live my life, which you’ll then observe and judge. “My life choices are filters”, I have been known to say.
That’s the circle of it all. Judge and prepare to be judged.
Just when it comes to personal matters, don’t expect me to tell you mine, or care about yours.
My phone’s voice-to-text cannot figure out Judd’s name when I say it so it constantly writes “Judge” where his name is supposed to go.