I am often criticized by finger-wagging Christians admonishing me not to judge others.
So I thought I’d take a quick moment to say that of course I judge others. I have to judge others. I’m stuck judging others. Judging others is a necessary byproduct of having a brain and a conscience.
If you can tell right from wrong, you judge.
And you can tell right from wrong. So you do judge. All the time. So does everybody.
I judge others; you judge others; everyone is always judging everything and everybody. Show me someone who doesn’t judge others about nine hundred times a day, and I’ll show you a corpse.
I don’t judge who people are; that’s none of my business. But I sure the [bleep] judge what people do. If I come home one evening and find a man raping my wife, for instance, you can bet that I will right away formulate a judgement about that man. Someone kicking a dog, beating a child, showing up at the funeral of a fallen soldier carrying a “God Hates Fags” sign?
Then hand me a gavel and call me Judy. Because I will straight away be in the judging business.Since there is virtually no way not to, I am going to judge the actions of others (which is the sole legitimate criteria any of us can have for evaluating another). And if I judge that a person is doing something wrong—something, that is, that unfairly hurts another—then I am going to judge whether or not I can do anything to help right that wrong. If I can, then the time for judging is over, and only action remains. If I can’t help, then … well, then that’s a drag. (And it’s also pretty rare; there’s always something you can do.)
“Judge not lest ye be judged” sounds awesome. (It also sounds like what’s in the Bible, but isn’t, exactly; the King James Version of Matthew 7:1 reads, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” which the NIV renders, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”) But I know there’s no way I or anyone else won’t judge others. Which leaves me to conclude that that famous injunction is meatier and much subtler than it ever gets credit for being.
I don’t think that “Judge not lest ye be judged” means, “Don’t judge.” I think it’s a deliciously clever way of saying that all of us, all the time, are being judged, and that we’d do well to live our lives accordingly.