December 9, 2008

It’s a cultural taboo to be judgmental. For years, I (and probably you) have had pounded into my head that I should accept people for who they are and try to get along with them the best I can without making snap judgments. This has carried over into how we should think about people’s lives, how they raise their kids, how they make their money, how they believe, what they believe, and how they interact with everyday anything. Of course, this is a concept full of contradictions.

It’s a Christian value, and in a lot of cases, a Pagan value, to put judgment aside. So many times, I’m confronted with someone’s idea of how the world works, and it just gives me the willies. Why can’t we make snap judgments? What really happens when we do? Is it not a reaction of instinct? I’m all for being nice, and I’m definitely all for getting all the information that can be gotten, but very often someone talks about an idea or a practice that just makes me scared.

I would not let me family commune with another family if said other family is known for abusing their children. I would not hang out with people that I know are a) hurting others on a regular basis, b) heavily involved in illegal activity, c) part of a brainwashing/suicide cult, d) gun-toting hot heads, e) racist, f) sexist. Most other people would think much the same. “I’m not gonna let my kids be around that sort of nonsense.” And yet, preaching a message of nonjudgmentalism, aka relativism, aka “all paths are valid,” is contradictory to the message.

If someone tells you they believe that you should be able to stone your wife to death if she cheats on you, would you really want to be around them that much, especially if you are a woman? Would you often have dinner with someone who thinks that fags should burn in hell, especially if you are gay? Would you let your children hang out with kids who dress like they belong in a gang? Probably not, if you’re white. We make the snap decisions anyway, and there is always a chance to change our minds later. But when our personal safety is in mind, we need to have room to be a little isolated until we have better evidence.

Now, of course, these are all personal decisions. I would never want my public school/church/community organization/government body making decisions in the same manner, since their safety is not of the imminent bodily type. All of this links into skepticism, where we make judgments based on reason, then find evidence to prove ourselves right or wrong. To blindly accept that someone carrying a gun in their back pocket is simply pro-gun is to not use the brain.

And I, the everyday person, reserve to keep my head above water by allowing that part of my brain with the robot from Lost in Space to keep setting off alarms. And I expect the same from my friends.


  1. You know what? I’ve done a LOT of thinking about this idea, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

    I don’t have a problem with my “all paths are valid” stance because I recognize that I do not live other people’s lives. I don’t have access to the Big Idea, so I can’t say whether or not the guy who beats his wife is serving a larger cosmic purpose. All paths CAN be valid – but not all paths are valid FOR ME.

    I don’t want to hang out with closed-minded people, but that doesn’t mean that I have the right to condemn the closed-minded; their journey is different from mine and I do not know what lessons their closed-mindedness is going to teach them. I can believe that the Holocaust needed to happen and that there was a purpose to Lawrence King’s murder and that all the terrible things that happen in the world fit into a larger puzzle that I’m not expansive enough to see – and let’s not forget that all the GOOD things that happen fit in, too; we can’t make it all about evil.

    What I’m saying is that everyone has their paths to tread. Some tread them blindly and some do their best to be mindful, but no one, I think, has the right to judge another. Just because I don’t judge (or, at least, I try NOT to), however, doesn’t mean I have to associate or condone. I have the right to disassociate with those whose paths do not align with mine.

    Does that make sense?

  2. Well said, Mrs. Chili. I was trying to think of a way to respond and I do believe you took my answer. 😉

    I know I do my best not to judge other parents on their parenting skills, but it is -very- hard. I sit there and analyze it and try to figure out how I would change it for my own family. All of my life I have been the observer and I guess it makes it that much harder to not judge others.

  3. You know what group always interests me? GLBT people who want so badly to be Christian. You’ve got a lot to fight at that point and…why exactly?

    To me it sounds also that there is a need to not walk alone on paths and sometimes, reared in a specific path, you don’t actually want to deviate from that path and be the lone wolf. If some had access to choices, thus tending the idea that knowledge is king, there might be activism to be judgmental instead of finding others on your path. Or, within waving distance.

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