Friday, 26 April 2013


Regarding yesterday's blog, somebody said to me "Yes, I agree, we shouldn't be judgemental". Actually that wasn't what I meant at all.

Without judgement we are amoebas. One of the arguments given against being judgemental is that it's natural to judge. They are missing the point completely, but it is.

The point actually is that "judgemental people" doesn't mean "people who judge". It means people who judge too quickly, possibly unfairly, and then behave, according to that judgement, in a way that can very detrimental to those they judged.

When James was 14 I took him to England for a holiday. We visited family members he hadn't seen since babyhood, looked up ancestral places, and had a jolly good time. One night we were walking through central London, and he was wearing a "hoodie", with the hood up. People were crossing the street to avoid him. Of course he thought this was an absolute hoot, and did his level best to act as dangerous-looking as possible.

Was that judgemental of passers-by? Yes, very. But not foolish. Crime in London is linked to youths in hooded sweatshirts. It's a type of sartorial profiling, if you like. Their behaviour was understandable. It did James no harm.

On another trip to Europe, with Alex & Michael, we experienced two other forms of judgement. These were a little more controversial.

In Paris, we were walking up the steps to the Louvre, and all around us were students greeting tourists and offering to be guides in the museum. The game was that they'd guess your nationality and greet you in the language they assumed was appropriate. If they got it right, it was an opener, a good guess could earn them money, so they tried hard. One of them approached Alex, with a huge hopeful smile, and said "Shalom!".

Michael and I were just about helpless with laughter, and he's never been allowed to forget that. But those of you who've met Alex can understand the assumption.

However, there was a slightly more serious assumption made early one morning in London. He'd gone for a walk before Michael and I were up, and while taking photos of Victoria Station, managed to get the interest of two armed police officers. He avoided actual arrest, by deleting the photos he'd taken, in front of them, by being polite and co-operative, and not least by having grown up in the town where one of them went to police training school and being able to name the nightclubs there. Because convincing anti-terrorist cops that your dark looks and compromised accent are just a quirk, and you really are a local boy on holiday with an interest in architecture, taking photographs just after dawn, is a jolly good idea.

I tell these three anecdotes to illustrate different forms of judgement that some people would get upset about.  We didn't. In each case we understood the situation, and after all, they gave us endless laughs when re-telling them.

If, on the other hand, James had been attacked, Alex had been arrested in London, or spat at in Paris, it would have been different. We'd have had cause to object to the reaction.

It is our reactions that matter. We are allowed to think, and make mistakes in those thoughts, and then sort it out in our heads how to proceed. That's called discernment and it may have a bit of a delay while we decide how to act, or simply to speak. Our words and deeds are what count.

But what about intent?

It matters, obviously, but if it is under control, if there is good, rational decision making going on, there isn't a problem. You don't have to like everyone. Nobody likes everyone. You don't have to trust everyone. In fact to do so would be damn silly. What you do have to do, is behave in a way that causes no harm to people just because you don't like or trust them. And that's an order.


  1. Words can be such tricky things to use--so many connotations can hang in the air. I think we talked a good while ago about the subject of judgment, and how it is helpful to be discerning and discriminant, as opposed to furthering discrimination, prejudice, and fear.

    I know my own judgment can be questionable some days, and leave judgment to those paid to do that job. ~ Blessings!