Thou shalt not judge is a commonly espoused holy edict. Religious leaders admonish us not draw unfavorable conclusions about others and consequently many of us feel guilty when, inevitably, we appear to judge others.
Refraining from judgment does not mean that one should ignore potentially negative or non-beneficial information about others. When we encounter a behavior, a person, or a thing, there are three potentials:
- Judge. Judgment is the meaning we assign to a person, thing, event or behavior that is negatively measured against our values. It is often divisive, hurtful and rife with overblown ego. For example, “I am better than…” “They are not as good as…” “They are bad because…” These are judgments.
- Discern. Discernment is the analysis of whether a behavior, event, thing, or person is beneficial, healthy, or positive for us. Deciding that eating a whole cheesecake isn’t healthy for us is an act of discernment. Deciding to avoid dating a man who has a penchant for drugs, alcohol, or indiscriminate sex is an act of discernment.
- Observe. Observation is the noticing of a behavior, person, event, or thing without assigning it meaning–because it doesn’t impact our lives or harm another. It’s living and others letting live. An example of an observation is listening to your friends recount their story of their last vacation and not measuring it against your values or applying discernment because it has no impact on your life. It’s just observing.
Get clear on the distinction between judgment and discernment. Your well-being depends on it.
The holy edict stands, thou shalt not judge, however, thou shalt discern!
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