By Ox Drover
Many people think of the term “judging others” in a negative way. I think a lot of this comes from the Biblical admonition found in which Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Matthew 7:2-5 says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.
I frequently hear others say, “Well, I’m not judging him …” when they talk about how someone they know has done something that is less than morally upright. When I was a young person in this community of mostly Scots-Irish Protestants, people were frequently “judged” or compared to community standards of behavior. If a woman or girl had a child out of wedlock, she was judged for doing so. She was held up to a standard of behavior that she had publicly failed to meet. Her child, unfortunately, was also “judged” because of the mother’s behavior. In fact, I have a friend who was born of an adulterous affair, and “everyone” knew who her father was, and though no one was nasty to her face, my friend still grew up feeling “judged” as a “bastard.” She had a “rough” childhood and adolescence, which included drug use, and early, promiscuous sexual behavior as a result of her feeling judged. Fortunately, she was able to pull herself out of her downward spiral, escape the vicious psychopath that she married. (He was charged with killing his mistress’s husband in a cold-blooded, execution-style murder.) My friend escaped from this man, married a good man, and has managed to raise her own daughter as a “good kid.” She has also managed to salvage her self-esteem and her place in the community as a well-liked and respected member of this community
What is “judging” exactly? What is fair judgment, and what is unfair judgment? Well, to me, “judging” what a person thinks or “reading their mind” is “magical thinking” and it is not possible to do fairly. No matter what people do, I can’t really know what they were thinking. One of the things that frustrated me the most in dealing with this “mind reading” was the gaslighting my egg donor did when she excused herself for lying to me by saying that if she had told me the truth I would have been so upset I would have “thrown a fit” because she loaned money to the psychopath my son had sent to infiltrate our family. I was so upset at the time that she presumed to be able to “read my mind” and I swore to her that I would not have “thrown a fit.” But how do you prove a negative when someone presumes to be able to read your mind and predict your behavior?
Mind reading and behavior prediction, based upon the ability to magically read one’s mind, is unfair judgment. It is, I think what Jesus was condemning in Matt 7:1 “Judge not least ye be judged.” However, showing discernment in our observations is not the kind of “judgment” that Jesus was condemning. James 3:11-12 says (11) Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? (12) Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? No spring yields both salt water and fresh. The author James is showing us here that we ought to be able to discern things that are right and good versus things that are bad by observation, not mind-reading … and that we should be able to see that a grapevine should bear grapes, and a fig tree figs, not the other way around. We ought to be able to look at a person’s “fruit” (behavior) and tell what that person is.
When we deal with a psychopath, many times they wear a “mask” to cover up what they are doing; they tell lies to throw us off the track. We aren’t perfect ourselves, and we know that we aren’t perfect, so we try not to “judge” others to a standard of perfection which we ourselves cannot reach. However, by trying to be empathetic to others and to not “judge” them, when we know ourselves not to be perfect, we sometimes go to the other extreme of not holding others to any standard of behavior at all. We calm ourselves by telling ourselves we are not “judging” this person, when in fact, we are overlooking their obvious bad behavior that repeats itself over and over and over.
While it may be comforting for us to think that there “is good in everyone” and that “even the worst person can change,” there are people who are quite satisfied to use and abuse others like objects or possessions, who actually obtain glee from using others.
Psychopathy isn’t “diagnosed” by one bad deed, or even two or three bad deeds, but is seen as a longstanding pattern of abusive behavior and an attitude of entitlement. Many times this bad behavior is masked behind a layer of “addiction” to drugs or alcohol, so that we may think that “if only he didn’t drink/drug” he would be fine, but this is “judging” in the wrong direction, by giving the person the benefit of the doubt about why they drink/drug. Judging in favor of someone (mind reading) about why they do bad acts is just as dangerous as mind reading the other direction and blaming someone for thoughts that you have magically put in their heads.
We need, as healthy individuals, to be able to discern behavior as abusive and to avoid the person who does these abusive things repeatedly, and to be able to judge/discern that person as an unhealthy individual for us to associate with. The reason doesn’t matter why they are unhealthy, and it really doesn’t matter if they qualify clinically as a psychopath or not, they are not healthy for us. The relationship drags us down.
The Biblical or social admonition to “judge not” doesn’t condemn us to being stupid to the point that we observe not, or that we fail to condemn bad behavior in either ourselves or others. We are expected to use our conscience to monitor our own behavior and when we fail to live up to the standard that we have set for ourselves we should feel “guilt” which tells us, “don’t do that again.” By the same token, we should also be able to see that the behavior of someone else is hurtful to us or others, and is not the kind of behavior that we would allow ourselves to do, so we are not obligated to tolerate it from someone else.
The bottom line is that if we don’t think that someone else’s behavior is something we would think is “okay to do,” then we do not have to allow that behavior or that person to affect our lives. If you won’t lie and cheat, don’t tolerate someone who does. If you wouldn’t steal, don’t tolerate someone who does. Stand up and say, “it is wrong to lie and steal, it is wrong to cheat. I won’t do that, and I won’t tolerate that.” That does not make you a “judgmental person,” it makes you a wise person. It makes you a discerning person. It makes you a healthy person.