The concept of judgment has been on my mind a lot lately. Why are people so reluctant to judge? Why do we assume that we shouldn’t be judged by others? Why do we condemn people who judge? And why do we reject our responsibility to examine the words and actions of our elected leaders and to form opinions about their character?
Coincidentally, judging came up just yesterday in a conversation with my friend “Cynthia.” Cynthia supports the president (yes, it is still possible to have friends on the other side of the political spectrum), and our conversation was in the context of his idiotic rambling speech about wind. She defended him, once again — this time by saying that not everyone has the gift of oration and after all, aren’t we all misunderstood from time to time? She went on to say that in spite of all she’s seen and heard from him, she didn’t and couldn’t know what’s in his mind or in his heart. And then: “Who am I to judge?“
You’ve got to be kidding me. Who are you? You’re a person with a lifetime of experience in the world. You make judgments all the time: about things you see, about situations, and about other people. Why do you suddenly suspend your ability to make similar evaluations about this man?
Nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect. I don’t want people to judge me, and so I cannot judge others.
You’re right, nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes, and we say and do things all the time that aren’t exactly what we mean. Sometimes isolated words or behaviors are taken out of context. So we don’t cut people out of our lives or condemn them on the basis of a single mistake. We understand. We forgive. But when someone consistently acts in a way that reveals a pattern, it’s fair to draw conclusions about that person’s character. When someone lies to you over and over, they are a liar. When someone continually demeans or insults other people, they are a bully. And when someone continually makes rambling incoherent statements filled with misinformation and nonsense, you are justified in coming to the conclusion that that person is unfit to lead this country.
We’ve been taught that judging is wrong. The bible says “judge not, lest ye be judged.”
I don’t think that “judge not” means “never use your judgment.” It certainly doesn’t mean “never attempt to determine whether someone is trying to take advantage of you or cheat you.” Neither is it a prohibition against forming any opinions about anything. It’s a warning against hasty and unfair judgment and against hypocrisy. So don’t be mislead by people who take an isolated phrase out of context and then tell you that it’s an absolute injunction against using your own common sense.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the the first time people used a phrase in the bible to justify a reprehensible agenda. The bible has been used to defend everything from slavery and war to homophobia and spousal abuse and more. But why would someone do that? Why would someone take an isolated phrase and use it to make Cynthia believe that she shouldn’t ever form her own opinions about people’s character?
Cynthia and others like her are being deliberately manipulated so that they won’t listen to their own inner voice. In fact, not just so that they won’t listen, but so that they won’t even try to use their own judgment to begin with.
The politicians, faith leaders, and others who support the current administration are using Cynthia’s nature as a basically nice person and her inherent reluctance to condemn others and are reinforcing the phrase “judge not” because they want to make Cynthia doubt herself.
They want to frighten her and others away from trusting their own judgment and their inner voices. Why? Because those in power and their apologists know that if people did look objectively at what’s right in front of them, they’d suddenly realize that we’re being led by an unfit and corrupt man.
It’s part of the same agenda that is (successfully) trying to get people to stop believing objective responsible news reporting and fact-based science: Not only is the news fake and science is a hoax; you know what else is false and unreliable? Your own mind. Your do not have the ability or even the right to form your own opinions. Don’t believe what you see. It’s an echo of that old gaslighting technique used by cheating husbands: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?”
Even though a continual stream of speeches, rallies and press conferences and more than 17,000 tweets over the past three years form a very clear picture of what is in his mind, Cynthia and others like her are being told that they have no right to judge because they can’t see into the president’s soul. As if there was some sort of wall surrounding his inner thoughts. Cynthia is being told it’s a lead wall, inscrutable, impenetrable and insurmountable. In fact, the wall is clear glass. She can look right in. All she has to do is open her eyes.
The urgent reality is that our democracy and our nation is in our hands. Because of that, it is not only our right to judge our elected officials and those running for office. It is our sacred responsibility. It is our job as citizens and voters to examine the body of evidence before us — the words, actions, behaviors and demeanor of the men and women who are seeking our approval — to form conclusions based on that evidence, and then to apply our conclusions at the ballot box.