There’s no doubt that we’re judgmental people. If it isn’t straight up pageantry and competition, then it comes in the form of advice or aid. “You know, you really should consider letting your hair grow longer.” Implication: your face is ugly. It happens all the time, I don’t think many of us are aware of how much we judge and are judged. I make snap judgments all the time for simple things, like when I’m at the supermarket and choose to stand on a longer line of bachelors, rather than a shorter line that contains some old lady with a jingling change purse the size of a suitcase. It shouldn’t keep you up at night, grandma, but I’m going to queue up with these dudes buying toilet bowl cleaner and Corn Flakes rather than get trapped behind you as you count out every penny you own right on the conveyor belt. What the hell is the deal with that, anyway? It’s like once you reach sixty, you want to pay for everything in coins. I’m convinced that most women develop osteoporosis from hauling a ten-pound bag of change around the neighborhood every day. That’s bound to wear on a body.
A common misconception about judgment is that one levies it to inflate one’s ego. That is certainly true some of the time, but not most of the time. You judge people outright every time you quickly decide whether another driver is milquetoast enough to cut off or might be prone to road rage. This kind of judgment does nothing for your own self-worth, it’s a snap assessment of how to resolve a situation. While it could be argued that to perceive someone as being too timid to deter you from swerving into their lane is a negative judgment, it is a private, meaningless sort of determination that does more to cure the annoyance of being in traffic than it does to hurt someone else’s feelings or assuage your own. It’s doubtless that, while you judge those around you, judgment is likewise being passed on you. That’s human nature. Just this morning, I saw someone standing at the top of the subway stairs, blocking ingress to and egress from the station, and I judged that person as a rude, selfish asshole. And if that person is a rude, selfish asshole, then he shouldn’t care or even acknowledge my judgment. However, he would still be deserving of being thrown down the concrete steps. I mean, there’s blithe judgment and then there’s social justice. Frankly, if you stand on the subway stairs, then you are worse than twenty two-headed Adolf Hitler/Osama bin Laden monsters. Just saying.
I knew someone, a talented musician, who claimed that she hated being judged. Judgment, in her narrow world view, was an exercise in demeaning others to inflate the self. Like most everything she said, this belief was merely an outcropping of her own insecurities, and belied her own practices. Any decent comedian, whose act probably subsists on judgment and observation, will tell you that they couldn’t possibly despise anyone more than themselves. It is this low, hopeless vantage that allows them to sense delusion in others. Passing judgment does not always imply that you think you’re better than someone else, it’s just something we can do as an objective party. And to be sure, we can’t help it. If judgment dredges up all of your low self-esteem issues, then maybe getting up on stage and performing isn’t for you. But the applause and cheering don’t bristle, criticism does. So it’s not the act of judging, but negative criticism that makes you feel shitty. That’s normal, and success will be determined depending on whether you push past criticism or embrace it and lie in a ditch. Trying to avoid judgment altogether because you might get a negative comment is like trying to avoid air because you don’t want to potentially get a fly in your mouth.
Another thing you hear a lot is that you shouldn’t pass judgment until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. So now I’ve got to experience everything just in order to determine that you are or are not an asshole? How inefficient is that? I am only myself, born and raised in the same place, my travels and actions wholly my own. However I can still meet someone from Hamburg that comes off like a complete dickface. And while that person may be justified in being a dickface, that doesn’t negate the fact that the person is a dickface. I get this a lot when I opine on music or television. I told a friend that I thought the fourth season of Mad Men exhibited a sharp deterioration in writing, that it played more like a sitcom without a laugh track than a period drama. His response was that I would appreciate it more if I watched it week to week, as shown, rather than all at once via Netflix streaming. It’s not a solar eclipse, it’s a fucking television show. I watched each episode sequentially, I understood all of the context. If it needs to be experienced in the moment that it airs in order to be enjoyed, then it is not a good show. And the same goes for judging people. I don’t need to see the world through your eyes to surmise that you’ve got a crappy world view.
Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” However, the bible missed the second part of that statement: “Everyone’s a sinner then? Well alright! Cast away!” We will judge and we will be judged, at least until we can upload our entire personalities into some kind of collective hive mind. If judgment itself is unfounded, then so is the sense of smell, which is what helps us to judge whether to use a particular bathroom or try one on a different floor. It’s an innate aspect of existence that has been around since we were still swinging in trees, shared by many different species, and it’s not something you should run away from. It should be embraced, for within another person’s judgment there is also their recognition. It’s meaningful whenever you appear on someone’s judgmental radar, for that means you are worth consideration.