The progressive folks I know often say they are “nonjudgmental” in an attempt to illustrate how accepting of diversity we are, and that we have compassion for our fellow man, no matter what. Witches call that unconditional Divine Love. Yet, we also regularly extol the virtues of showing “good judgment” in our lives, as a means of navigating our way through a successful life, as we pursue happiness. These terms sound contradictory. Which is the greater virtue? Good judgment or nonjudgmental? Let’s unpack this…
Unconditional Love ≠ Unconditional Relationships
So many of us in pagandom are still stinging from the rejection when someone in the past found us to be too weird, or too unsavory to love. For former Christians, it was Yahweh, or God HIMSELF, who put such terrorizing judgments and conditions upon his love. There is actually a mental health condition known as Religious Trauma Syndrome, it can get so bad. The recent schism in the Methodist church over acceptance of GLBTQ folks is a recent example. That kind of judgmental rejection can twist a person all around, until we have no idea what is right or wrong anymore.
Then we come to paganism as adults, tired of the threat of damnation, and we swing the pendulum too hard the other way…so now we have this carte blanche attitude where “everything goes.” This can make for unhealthy personal boundaries. “Everything” most certainly does not “go,” as the #metoo movement so rightly points out. We want to build a society from Divine Love, then we confuse that further by saying Divine Love is unconditional, which is a tricky concept.
In healthy human relationships, there are many necessary conditions. Yes, the God/dess’ love and acceptance of Their creations is without limit or exception. But, if I’ve learned anything from paganism it is that unconditional love is NOT the same thing as unconditional relationships.
Does Nonjudgmental mean what we think it means?
Because I work in a Metaphysical shop, I interact with spiritual folk of every variety. They ask us all kinds of questions, and express a wide range of opinions. In my earlier article about witchcraft and “relative oddness” I said, “I do make a concerted effort, no matter what my customer (asks), to arrange my response in such a way as to be neutral, informative and nonjudgmental.”
Without making judgements, especially on the basis of one’s personal ethics or opinions.
But wait! I use my “personal ethics and opinions” as the scales on which I weigh all my decisions–my judgments. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. The more important question here should be: how do I respond, how do I act, how do I treat others, even when I wouldn’t make the same decisions they have?
I call my ethical guideposts Heron’s Four Rules of Witchcraft for Personal Sovereignty, and they have so far served me very well. After all this time in the witching biz, I do know this: Just because everyone is entitled to their own pursuits of happiness, this does not mean that all pursuits are equally beneficial.
Let me break down my thought process here, using the four rules…
#1: Don’t burn the Witch.
Having a well-honed sense of good judgment is vital to safely maneuvering within our society and requires all six senses to do effectively. There are many ideas, behaviors, fashions, lifestyles, etc, that I’ve judged to not be in alignment with my core values; they are unsafe or unsavory to me, so I don’t do those things.
For example: Extreme body modification. Tattoos, piercings, radically altering your flesh by embedding horns, splitting your tongue…body suspension, or hanging your own meat from hooks for fun. <shrug>
What someone does by their own free will, to their own body, is none of my business. These choices do not negatively impact me, or the health of the world, in any way that concerns me. I wouldn’t “burn the witch” for these choices, and I hope they wouldn’t “burn me” for not participating.
Live and let live; fairly take and fairly give.~Wiccan Rede (1)
#2: Don’t be the Asshole
When we are talking about benign personal choices, I don’t want to be the sort of “judgemental” asshole that would impose my ethos as a way of controlling how other people live. It’s also a “golden rule” thing. For the most part, it doesn’t bother me in the least to mingle my life with the folks who’ve made alternate judgements than I have. I live and let live.
In other situations, I choose NOT to be in relationship–nor proximity– with people who are too wildly far afield from what I consider to be alright for me, or for society. So, I become the warrior witch and defend the boundaries. I will decry their beliefs and actions as malignant to society at large, and will do anything within my sphere of influence to cure that cancer.
For example: White Supremacists. Neo-Nazi’s, the KKK, INCELs. There are actually too many Alt-Right hate groups, so I’ll redact the depressingly long list of domestic terrorists I just typed out. I’m sure you get the picture.
#3 Don’t be the Weak Link
I believe that it is a Witch’s duty to be a strong link in the chainmail of our society. I recognize that while I am sovereign to make my own benign lifestyle choices on my own little patch, I am also interlinked throughout nature and society with everyone else. What happens to my neighbor, affects all of us metaphysically, because we are one large organism. Just like the human body, if a cancerous tumor is allowed to grow anywhere, every cell and system are threatened. We cannot in good conscience turn a blind eye when hatred turns violently or repressively against another group’s inalienable right to pursue their own happiness in a peaceful way.
With no fool a season spend, nor be counted as their friend. ~Wiccan Rede (1)
So, not only will you never find me at a white supremacist event — which is an unfortunate part of pagandom— neither will any known member be invited to dinner at my house. Furthermore, I would get seriously pointy with them about it, should I ever get the chance. I call this Going Gandalf: “you shall not pass!” I will do everything in my power to limit bane, and protect the vulnerable.
#4 Must be Present to Win
Am I being judgemental about these racists? You bet yer britches! In this case, I am okay with that. This is part of how I live up to my fourth rule of witchcraft: must be present to win. To paraphrase: Evil flourishes when good witches stand by and do nothing. I think that “evil” emerges where the natural course of life, and the free pursuit of happiness, is subverted due to a fear of the lack of Divine Love, but I wrote about that here.
A prayer for good judgment
Isn’t “good judgement” a commendable thing people do as a means of figuring out where they fit in the overall scheme of possibilities? How else do we determine what is beneficial for us?
What helps me navigate this minefield is my defense of personal sovereignty and free-will. Regardless of any judgement I might make that what you are doing is incorrect for me personally, my acceptance of your free-will should be unwavering; you will not suffer at my hand because of where you land within my range of relative oddness.
Unless fear takes over, and your actions become the cancer, or the threat against OTHER people’s free will and personal sovereignty. Then we get to talk about tough love. That is my promise…that is how I show my fellow human beings perfect love and trustworthiness.
Let this be my prayer for good judgement, folks. There is no “black and white” of “good vs evil” in our very complex pagan paradigm. There are no 10 commandments to tell us what to do, and no “devils” to blame; only Divine Love, a fear of it’s lack, and free-will. Individual discernment is key between having good judgment and being a judgemental asshole. Gods grant us the wisdom to know the difference.
- From the long form of The Wiccan Rede (WCC)