Friday, September 14, 2018

Lest We Be Judged

It is not easy to accurately judge another human being. Yet we are subject to such judgments throughout our life, seemingly from first breath to the last. Within the Abrahamic religions, judgment was a significant aspect of early Judaism, which codified specific do’s and don’t’s, attached to specified punishments. The idea of cumulative judgment was also established, recording our history of “good” and “bad” deeds and how they netted out over our lifetime.

Jewish law was initially the basis for God’s judgment of us. But, human beings being as they are, these rules quickly became the basis for human beings’ judgments of each other. Judgments that were highly susceptible to human frailty and deviousness. Judgments that became exclusively dual: right versus wrong; good versus bad; acceptable versus unacceptable. Either/or. No middle ground. No gray areas.

A force such as judgment was also effective for creating earthly power structures and maintaining group control. We have thusly become very good at using this judgment tool for our own designs, even as we color it in a “divine will” or “greater good” dressing. This judgmental framework flowed naturally from its Jewish roots into Christian and Islamic dogma and practice.

Then Jesus came along into this structure and said, “Judge not, that ye also be not judged,” (Mth. 7:1), thereby thoroughly upending the accepted system in place. “Judge not” is hardly compatible with a power and control social architecture. When we lose that convenient list of do’s and don’t’s, we are called upon instead to go into that difficult personal territory of compassion and humility. We have to make choices about how we live, rather than being able to conveniently rely on an external manual of conduct. The solid ground beneath our feet turns to mush, while our opportunity to grow as mature individuals presents itself.

To complicate this further, we are required to make many choices every day over a multitude of topics just to transact the daily business of life. We make choices about “things”: what foods to eat; what clothes to wear; what purchases to make. We make choices about “intangible things”: whom to marry; what career to pursue; where to live; what friends to make. We make choices about “ideas”: our religious beliefs; our political opinions; our understanding of Truth itself. Each of these choices potentially opens a door of judgment as to their “rightness.”

We also make – almost reflexively – judgments of others, by judging the choices they have made for themselves. Yes, there are times when we need to assess others, e.g. their job qualifications, or their output, or their actions and culpability for same. But such assessments often slide into more profound judgments as to one’s worth, one’s value, as a human being. Judgments often made on the basis of what one would choose for him-/herself rather than what is truly right for another. Mistakes, errors in decision-making, our individual actions that cause negative consequences are all part of our humanness. All part of our baggage we might like to take back and reverse but cannot.

Each of us is entitled to a reservoir allotment of excused “oops”; hopefully we do not exceed that capacity. That reservoir is the source of the graciousness and compassion we extend to our self and to each other. For our own benefit, and the benefit of others, we would do well to be cautious and sparing in our judgment-making. At the very least, we can hold our tongue from speaking our negativity about the judgments arising in our mind. We can contain our judgment to those most important of things that may arise, and not the trivial. We can remember how to mind our own business when there are no real consequences to us. We can acknowledge that there but for grace go I.

©   2018   Randy Bell