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That Fine Line Between Judging and Being Judgmental

Leila Harper | Jun 28, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Leila Harper | Jun 28, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

We all want to know: where is that fine line between mentally judging an act and becoming judgmental?

Sometimes I wonder, “Am I judgmental or non-judgmental?” Personally, I admit that I can be somewhat critical, and often I don’t hesitate to speak my mind. Yet friends and colleagues have curiously commented about my being open-minded and non-judgmental. My critical side tries to analyze these opposites—but just to see what can I learn, and to help me become a more compassionate person with clients, friends, and family.  

Then I ponder: what does being judgmental mean to our overall health, both individually and collectively as a society? Because it seems everyone thinks they know what’s best for everyone else, yet forget to first tend their own gardens. Those judgmental types often succeed in imposing their agendas on any indecisive individual.

Every day, I listen to people make judgements about the behavior of others. Whether a spouse, family member, friend, client, or random person out and about, criticism runs rampant in our society. I hear people say they “would never do” such and such thing as they marshal biases, discolor facts or whisper confidentially.

I myself have made such statements in my own head when a close friend confided in me about cheating, lying, drugging, etc., as we all often do. My critical statements tend to be more in the sphere of health and fitness, because it is my field of expertise and I am often asked anyway. But is this right? Should I offer an opinion when nobody asks? Does it help or hinder the health of that person? I’ve realized that it may depend on my motive. I’ve also learned, from the Baha’i teachings, to try never to backbite, to speak negatively about others:

If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? … No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 230.

gavelSo here, without any reference to anyone else, is my general opinion: being highly productive in life has become the new health crisis. We can feel overwhelmed or inadequate from reacting to too much stress and not enough compassion. Rather, we look to “fix” everyone else, thinking we know what’s best for them. This notion that we must “fix” problems rather than being supportive, compassionate, nurturing, or simply listening may come from an unequal balance between yin/yang energy—the male and the female aspects in all of us.

If the primary role of men is to fix problems and women to nurture souls, maybe, whether male or female, we’ve forgotten how to help without necessarily fixing. Just maybe, in the course of nurturing, that injured person finds a way to fix themselves.

Often, when a person needs more loving emotional support, we discover in society that shaming people into taking responsibility for their lives–for instance, in blaming someone for being uneducated, impoverished, or abused–that we prolong or exacerbate the condition.

Now I’m not saying that we can’t offer help in the form of suggestions. In my profession I’ve learned that such changes can help solve a lot of health issues, and implementing healthy habits is key to healthy living overall. But I’ve also learned that the way the advice is administered is most important—it should be lovingly non-judgmental.  

Judgements have to be made daily, for a lot of critical reasons. However, being judgmental with people can have a detrimental effect, not only on your health but on theirs as well. Being judgmental stunts spiritual growth and can cause many unnecessary conflicts amongst friends, colleagues and family members. It can also be very unhelpful in so many ways, especially when contributing to criticism and backbiting.

Perhaps you may think you are being helpful by offering someone advice on some matter. But to do so one should first look at the person with love, and not with an air of superiority or condescension. After all, we each mirror on another in some way. The moment we judge another unfairly or with superiority is the time to remind one’s self:  “I should never do that.”

So be careful in judging—be as loving as you can in your delivery. I say this to myself as a health practitioner, as a practicing Baha’i and as a counsel to humankind.

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  • Hooshang S. Afshar
    Jun 30, 2017
    Good advice, thank you.
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