Saturday, June 23, 2012

You’re Just Being Judgmental

I am not entirely sure what most people, especially liberals, are thinking when they say that you are being judgmental.  Perhaps they mean that you are looking upon another human being with disdain.  Or perhaps they mean that you are calling someone’s actions morally reprehensible.  That kind of a claim is often accompanied by a negative emotion aimed at the person you are condemning.

The most puzzling use of the term “judgmental” is when it is used to describe a person who is simply affirming something as true.  For example, if I simply say “I think Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven” I find it mind boggling that I would be called judgmental for simply stating my position.  In these cases, “judgmental” simply means, “you disagree with me, thus you are judgmental”.  If that was a legitimate use of the term “judgmental” then everyone is judgmental about something as we all disagree about lots of things.

I think these uses of the term “judgmental” are spurious ways of using the term.  I am not sure how these uses became fashionable.  To be sure, Christ forbids us from being judgmental.  He says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Obviously he does not mean “Do not affirm something as true”.  If he meant that, his own statement would be self-referentially incoherent.  Since I don’t think that Jesus Christ is making a self-defeating claim here, he must be referring to something else when he commands his followers not to judge.

However, before I say what I think judgmentalism is, let me make a few more clarifications about what judgmentalism is NOT:

1. Making a moral appraisal of a situation is not necessarily judgmental.

I am not being judgmental if I say, “You know what, I think Jim was morally wrong when he decided cut Bob open with a knife for no reason”.  In this case, I am offering a moral appraisal of the situation.  To say that it is morally wrong to offer moral appraisals is self-defeating.  It is itself a moral appraisal that morally condemns all moral appraisals.

2. Being angry at what is morally evil is not judgmental.

It seems to me that it is natural and good for us to be angry at evil actions.  How can someone tell me not to be angry at the man who kills one of my family members?  Or how can someone call me evil for being angry at the woman who makes slanderous accusations about my wife in public?  I haven’t met anyone who consistently lives this kind of viewpoint out.  Even the most ardent “non-judgmentalist” gets angry at the person he thinks is being judgmental.  He gets angry because he thinks being judgmental is wrong.  Thus he does, in fact, get angry at what he thinks is evil.

3. Confronting a friend because he or she is doing something wrong is not judgmental.

Confronting someone when they are doing something wrong is a way of bringing correction to your friend.  It is a way of setting him or her on the right course.  In fact, correcting someone may be the most loving thing to do.

4. Making hasty or rash judgments is not the same as being judgmental.

While I agree that you should not make rash judgments, I don’t think this is what Christ means when he says “judge not”.  You can be judgmental when you make statements that are true and well thought out.

What Judgmentalism Is

True judgmentalism that is biblically condemned has to do with a lack of charity.  It has to do with intentions that are not aimed at redemptive ends.  The person who says “It is morally wrong for you to sleep with that person until you are married” may be telling you this out of love.  Perhaps they understand this because they were sexually active prior to marriage and it was destructive to their relationship.  However, this moral claim is not judgmental because it is a means of bringing about a good in the other person.

However, a person may say “It is morally wrong for you to sleep with that person until you are married” AND be judgmental in saying it.  This occurs when the moral affirmation is said out of arrogance or spite or with other nefarious intentions.  

So it is not the statement itself that is judgmental, but the intention that drives the statement.  

Are you making the statement to bring about some good, or are you saying it to make yourself look good and to make the other person look bad?  In other words, are you using your statement as a tool of destruction or as a tool for good?

In conclusion, being judgmental is not properly located in any statement that you make.  It is found in the way you use your statements.  Are you trying to help or hurt the other person?  Are your statements tools for justifying your own selfishness, arrogance, etc. or are your statements tools you use to edify others?

If you truly love others as you love yourself, then you will not be judgmental.  Even your criticisms will be constructive because your aim is to build up others.


  1. Good words, my man. As for this one...

    I am not sure how these uses became fashionable.

    I can't help but wonder if a large piece of the relativistic and pseudo-tolerance agenda has to do with culture-/system-wide conflict avoidance amplified by an increasingly pluralistic society. When people express disagreement with someone coming from a different perspective, and communicate their belief that they are correct and the other incorrect, that can naturally produce conflict. Conflict is largely born out of difference (or people's way of handling it), and the more difference in the mix the more potential for conflict. In an increasingly pluralistic society, the larger or prevailing social system (meta-system, perhaps) might attempt to adapt (or self-regulate, as systems are said to do) by avoiding difference in order to avoid conflict. Families (much smaller social systems, of course, yet still operating through systems principles like we-try-to-preserve-homeostasis and whatever-happens-elsewhere-in-the-system-impacts-me-over-here-in-the-system) do this all the time.

    Unfortunately, the avoidance of difference, at least significant difference, often (usually?) does families/systems more ill than good. Those differences operate more clandestinely, the tension builds under the surface, then something triggers it, bringing it to the surface in problematic (often volatile) ways. This is how a lot of marriages fall apart.

  2. I judge that this post is correct.