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Judge and be judged

The Bible says "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (Matt 7:1)  Of course, the logic is flawed, but in practice that is generally true--the more you judge people, the more they will judge you.  However, I think that sometimes we go too far when we say "don't judge me" or "don't judge other people".  I think the anti-judging culture is harmful.  I believe that judgment serves a good purpose in society, and that it is helpful.

Judging others is a powerful tool.  It should be acknowledged and embraced, not dismissed.  When I first came out of the closet, I joined the bandwagon of people who said "don't judge me for being gay".  But there were times when I had to admit to myself that I was grateful for the input that people gave me.  Many of the people who voiced their opinions to me did so out of love and a desire to help.  It may not have been a pleasant thing for me to hear, but often things that we need to hear aren't pleasant.  I fear that I have driven away too many people from my life by being angry at them for judging me and even telling them to stop judging me.

The ironic thing is that the statement "You shouldn't judge people" is inherently hypocritical.  By telling someone that ey should not judge others is to judge that person.  It is to declare a certain action as "bad" and to attempt to discourage people from engaging in it.

But how is judgment good?  Judgment is how society advances.  It's how technology is invented.  It is progression.  It is also how societies devolve.  It's how superstitions are upheld as truths.  It's how dogma leads to the damnation of progress.  The act of judging in itself can be used to constructive or destructive ends.  We can use it to promote harmonious social interactions or we can use it to promote violent interactions.

Judgment orders society.  The fact that theft rates, for example, are as low as they are is due in part to the fact that theft is judged by society as immoral.  If it were socially acceptable to take an object that belongs to someone else--or if the concept of possession itself was not one we had--then I conjecture that theft rates would rise.

Consider the example of same-sex marriage.  I do not believe that it is good that conservatives claim that they need to protect the family by preventing homosexual people from marrying.  I think that marriage equality should be the societal norm.  But what I do believe is good is that conservatives use judgment to perpetuate their ideas.  They judge homosexual people as immoral because homosexuality is, in their world view, an immoral act.  The act of judging itself is not bad, just the application of judging is.  If none of us were to judge, then we would not be able to judge the thief as immoral or the murderer as criminal.  The necessary corollary would be that all behavior must be acceptable, which would clearly not promote the greatest harmony in society.

We should not withhold judgment of people.  We should judge people.  Judging people is a good thing.  Judging actions is a good thing.  Deciding whether a particular behavior should be accepted or not accepted is an effective way of ordering society and even keeping peace.  What we should do is judge wisely.  We should weigh carefully the pros and cons.  We should not judge in haste.  We should judge with reticence.  We should understand the consequences of the judgments we make.

We should be willing to accept the judgment of others.  Not necessarily to submit unquestioningly to it, but to hear it and value it.  I should listen to the advice that my friends and family have to give me, even if it's not the advice that I want to hear.  Even if they are telling me that I'm messing up my life by doing what I'm doing, I should be grateful for what they say because it is helpful in guiding me.

Judgment can be good.  We all use it, even when we say that we don't judge people or that we don't want people judging us.  We judge people.  We should be aware of that, we should be wise about it.  We should judge things that are important and let non-important things go.  We should thank other people for their input and consider it sincerely.  It might help.  It might not, but it might.

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