judmentalism, part 3: the redefinition

December 10, 2008

In an effort to turn this whole “audience of one” thing around, I’m gonna keep these posts going.

So, Chili brings up an important point from the last post: there is a difference between being judgmental and making a judgment. She points out that being judgmental is the close-minded, unwilling to investigate side of dealing with people, and making a judgment is simply forming an opinion.

I suppose what I’m going after in all this is that the cultural taboo surrounding being judgmental is…misguided? I still think it is necessary to form quick judgments that are hard-lined and possibly very unyielding for the sake of safety. The idea that one must curb all opinion until facts are known is silly.

For instance, someone comes to me and tells me I did something wrong, say, in the classroom. Hard as it might be, my snap decision will be to dismiss them, and I must not fall to that. I need to assess myself and what happened, and determine if the right course of action was taken. Does that make me judgmental? No. Will I have made a judgment? Yes.

Now, someone approaches me with information regarding “DNA activation.” As far as I know, one’s DNA is not activated, and so I will quickly jump on the button about this being possible new agey BS. I will research this. I will figure out what is being said here. I will also discover that said “activation” centered around the idea of waking the psychic centers of your mind/brain/soul/DNA/inner unicorn. I will still dismiss this as BS and claim my original snap judgments were correct. Will I have made a judgment? Yes. Will I still be called judgmental? Possibly.

So perhaps the accusation of being judgmental is more reflexive than personal. One is determined to be judgmental by other people?



  1. Again, I think we are talking about semantics, although I do appreciate your point about making the snap assessment and then having the presence of mind to re-evaluate it. That, I think, is where the line between “assessment”- which seems to me a more neutral term – and “judgment” is.

    We need to posit ourselves in situations in order to function. I need to feel (even if I’m incorrect) that I have a handle on a situation – I know who’s where, both literally and figuratively. I take cues from this input – I know how to behave, what kind of language to use, how I should hold my body. In a society where group interaction is as frequent as it is in ours, we would be socially paralyzed without this information; we need to understand how to act in a given situation. Making those assessments is a vital part of that, I think, and seems to me to be rather value-neutral.

    Being judgmental, in the way that I think we’re defining it, is almost always a negative thing. Say I make an off-the-cuff crack about someone’s weight. Crass and insensitive it may be, but was my purpose to hurt someone, or to amuse the person standing next to me? Does my comment earn me a label of boor, or is there more to what someone may know about me that mitigates my comment? It’s all entirely situational.

    OH! A few weeks ago, I got SLAMMED (SLAMMED, I say!) for posting a Henry Rollins video in which he made a crack about “psychotic Christians.” How could I, some of my readers blasted; I, who am always touting tolerance and compassion – how could I post something that bigoted and closed-minded?! I wasn’t given credit for the fact that there was much MORE to the clip than the psychotic Christians crack, nor was the fact of my own willingness to call a spade a spade – that I’m willing to call out crazy lefties for their shit, too. There were judgments made – and improper ones, at that – and I’m still a little hurt about it all.

    See? Situational. The people who really know me (or who are willing to give me a little bit of benefit of doubt) were okay with the clip and my endorsement of it. Others? Not so much.

    GREAT conversation, ‘Bugs! Thank you! I’m really thinkin’ here!

  2. I’m now wondering how important the semantics is? Is the call of “judgmental” a taboo? Should it be reversed? Should we be returning to a more scholarly usage for sake of argument? Can one be judgmental in a positive way?

  3. WHat’s that old saying about first impressions?

  4. ‘Bugs, I don’t know if we need a new word, per se, but we DO need to be sure that we understand exactly what it is we’re talking about…

    Stranger, are you thinking “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”?

  5. Agreed.

  6. So, I came late. Tardy, as usual.

    From what I gather, Judgmental has the negative connotation of a permanent evaluation of a person/lifestyle/belief. Almost as if writing them off because of it?

    It is my impression that there could be a positive connotation when making a judgement, or snap assessment. It might be considered the same as being judgmental, save when followed by the attitude of learning or ability to change the judgement once more information has been found. In the open act of discovery, thought is challenged about what you think, feel, and believe. Even if you evaluate that your first impression was correct, there is growth as a result.

    So perhaps, when a strain of thought is deemed as negative, it is then labeled as being judgmental. However, when it is not perceived thusly, people just refer to it as “making up your mind,” “thinking,” or “forming an opinion?”

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