I you have values in life that you want to stay true to, you automatically judge other people—based on those values.
- If you value punctuality, you judge your date for arriving late (or positively for being on time).
- If you value loyalty, you judge your girlfriend for being a slut (or positively for being faithful).
- If you value courage, you judge your pal for making excuses not to hit on the sexy lady in the bar (or positively for having the balls to do it).
- If you value toughness, you judge your comrade for bitching about an ailment or discomfort (or positively for enduring in silence).
- If you value perseverance, you judge your friend for giving up too early (or positively for staying strong).
Can you spot the two commonalities in these five examples?
Read them again and think about it…
The two commonalities are:
- We judge people based on vice and virtue (punctuality, loyalty, courage, toughness, perseverance).
- We judge people who are important to us (dates, girlfriends, pals, comrades, friends).
How could you never judge people and, at the same time, make friends and form close relationships?
Every rejection follows on a judgment, and so does every acceptance.
By judging you, I evaluate your moral worth. By judging you, I credit you with dignity. I wouldn’t judge a wasp for stinging me—it’s just an animal; my judgment elevates you above that. By judging you, I demonstrate to you that you’re important to me. If I gave zero fucks about your existence, why would I bother judging you? Why waste the emotional energy?
My judgment is not envy. My judgment is not resentment. My judgment is not rampant criticism. I do not condemn. My judgment is a growth-oriented evaluation of your moral worth. I judge people who are important to me to give them an opportunity to improve themselves, just like I judge myself because I want to improve myself. Judgment, in this sense, is feedback.
Sure, in most cases, people judge others not for their lack of virtue, but for their own weaknesses and shortcomings. Examples are plenty: poor people who judge wealthy people, obese people who judge fit people, regretful people who judge successful people, introverts who judge outgoing people, and dissatisfied people who judge happy people.
What these people really do, though, is not only judge others; they also complain, and, as a rule of thumb, whenever we complain about or get angry with someone else, we’re pointing at a flaw in our own character. Also, by judging those people’s judgments, we’re merely pointing out that they have different values than us (unless they’re hypocrites; in that case, we’re judging them for their hypocrisy).
Humans are social creatures. The practice of morally judging others was vital for our ancestors to establish functioning tribes. Not judging would have been a tribe’s death sentence. Judging is the mortar of social structures; it enables social cohesion.
Lack of judgment is not a virtue.
- Why Moral Relativism Is False Humility
- How to Take Action Without Judging
- Why Judging Isn’t Bad
- The Four Cardinal Virtues and How to Practice Them