Judge Not

My personal hesitation in judging that which I do not know

Here’s a challenge I have been practicing for quite some time now: resisting the urge to judge that which I do not know. It is a harder challenge than it sounds.

I'm a judge at debate tournaments. But resistance to judge is often a good thing.

I like to judge debates. But I know debate. I resist judging that which I do not know.

We judge…

  • Movies we haven’t seen. “No one should watch Popular But Sinister Movie…because I read a review of it online.”
  • Books we haven’t read. “No one should read Heretical Bestselling Book…because I heard a sermon about how bad it is.”
  • Music we don’t enjoy. “That Wildly Famous Musician is awful and disgusting and immoral and yada yada yada.”

The consequences of judging things are often petty and insignificant. Nevertheless, I have found myriad blessings from the discipline.

For example, after a friend suggested that Frozen was an evil movie (one that I should join him in judging), I watched it anyway. I very much appreciated the conflict in the movie and identified with it. I wrote an entire blog post about it, “But the Cold Does Bother Me,” and it has been shared hundreds of times. I’m glad I didn’t fall for my friend’s judgment.

The consequences of judging people is more horrific. Sometimes tragic.

As with judging things, people often judge others as if they “know” them. I have found few examples more accurate of this than with how people judge the Syrian refugees. I had one Facebook “friend” insist that “most” of the refugees were terrorists. She insisted on it, and many agreed with her.

She doesn’t “know” anything or anyone, especially refugees. From the comfort of her American home, she is lying. And the consequence of such fallacious dishonesty? Four million refugees are still displaced, and our country’s doors are shut to helping them. We should get over our fear and doubt and welcome them to refuge.

Judgment is a tricky thing. I do not want to be gullible, and I certainly teach discernment in debate and in speaking the truth. That said, I resist the urge to judge that which I do not know. And I sincerely believe the world would be a better place if everyone did the same.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • But I think it is fascinating that you are making a judgement call on the refugees.

    Deciding where we stand on an issue is not as important as we think it should be. In the case of the refugees, Jordan is much better equipped to handle them. Germany has demonstrated that a large influx of Islamic-believing refugees from 3rd-world countries can lead to increased incidence of rape. I don’t judge the refugees so much as I look at the facts and make a decision different from yours based on probabilities and risks.

    But both of us are judging the situation.

    However, you and I technically have very little — or possibly no — say in the situation. (I think that is one of the fallacies of the internet — we all feel that we all have a voice. We feel that we matter.)

    As another example It is also important for me as a Christian to choose what I feel Christ would want me to do in every situation that I am faced with. Sometimes that leads to people feeling judged. (or so they say). I’m not judging. I’m just trying to follow my conscience.

    As I told someone recently, “aren’t you being judgemental when you call me judgemental?”

    I agree with your article, but I feel you (and I) could like be less judging. Judging can be both positive and negative and in my opinion this article only perceives the negative aspects of judging, and continues to make judgements that are considered “positive” by the judger.

    • A reason I care so much about the refugees is because my son-in-law’s parents are Syrian refugees. I have learned much from the Akaad family and their love for their homeland. My judgment would have been much different if I had refused to let go of that which I did not know, replacing it with a much more honest attempt to understand their predicament.

      So, I suppose I am “judging,” but I am making a judgment of that which I know much more than the typical American. If they tried to understand the predicament of the Syrian people, I believe they would not be so much in error. They would welcome Syrians with enthusiasm, rather than the fear they display now, depending on gossip or hearsay about “incidences of rape” and other nonsense. All the while claiming to be “factual” and realistic.

      They are judging on that which they do not know. Which is my sad point.

      • True. We must all seek greater understanding and empathy. But ignoring factual data (as you put in quotes) because we have a n=1 experience is equally fallacious and can actually be a stronger cognitive bias.

        I’m big on experiences. As an elected official I was very much a boots on the ground kind of guy. But good decision making — good data — must combine both.

        Also I want to clarify that I am not against Syrians or any person group. But when looking at hypothetical situations, my reasoning process tries to examine probabilities based on as large a sample size as possible.

        As Christians we don’t want to be hateful. But we also must have robust rationale to prevent us from being judgemental. The final step is to ask, “if this decion making process was applied to me (or someone I love) would I feel that it was fair?” (..for with such judgement ye meet…”)

        I think you are good at this last point and that perhaps is the whole heart behind the article. But I feel that it is unbalanced to the other extreme and is also not an ideal stance.

        Thanks for the post and the response.

  • Melody Vig

    I enjoyed reading this. I don’t think you can ever fully know someone, therefore judging anything/anyone has its fallbacks.