Our Natural Tendency To Judge Can Be Harnessed For Good
People are going to judge, it’s a fact. There’s no way to escape it. So why not use it to help you make better life choices and change the world.
When we look at judgment as a tool for keeping us all on track, it takes the sting out of hearing what other people think.
It’s what allows us to make progress as a society. Judgment can even be seen as collective wisdom. It right wrongs and addresses social injustice.
Judging is one way of keeping us all on the same page. It goes hand in hand with our old friend shame, an internal superpower. It tells us when we’re doing something we shouldn’t, it’s our conscience.
Everybody’s had a moment when you’ve done something stupid, and as your doing it, in real-time, a voice in your head is telling you to stop. That’s shame, trying to bail you out before you get in too deep.
I’ve never much cared about what anyone thinks of me. People assume that’s an excellent quality, and it has come in handy at times. But it was developed as a defense mechanism, a way of coping with my toxic family. So while it’s served me well in some ways, I don’t think it’s been wholly positive.
I remember being a teenager with a pink mohawk and saying to some old man (my age now), “What are you looking at?!!” Of course, he was looking at me. I wanted him to. I was begging for it.
If I hadn’t had such a dysfunctional way of relating to the world, caring about what people thought of me could probably have saved me a lot of pain and danger. I might not have gotten so drunk, so often, if I cared that someone might be disappointed. I might have chosen to stay away from the soul suckers and preditors I surrounded myself with if I cared what someone might think.
We’re all judging each other. We’re just pretending we don’t. Judging each other is inherent in our DNA, it’s how we evolved socially. It’s how we got to where we are in our complex social structure. It’s what we do.
When we study each other, we keep ourselves in line as well. When we judge others, we also have to look at ourselves because if you tell someone something, you can just bet they will tell you something back. Test this theory by telling your partner one thing they do that bugs you. You will undoubtedly get a laundry list of your bad habits back. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Conversely, if I’m doing something that I know in my heart is right, and I’m riling people up because it pushes their buttons, that’s okay too. I’m not afraid to be judged for being myself, who I am inside or standing in my beliefs. If I can sensibly defend what I do, then I know that I am living with integrity and conviction.
Sometimes we have to buck the system to move our society forward. The old ways are not always the best. So it that way we can band together and fight against something that we judge to be harmful. We also need judgment to be able to do that.
Social movements are born of this ability to judge.
Whole groups of us can look at the world around us and determine that a system is wrong or harmful. We can judge our governments and institutions to hold them to a higher standard. We rise up and fight together, with the bond of our judgment holding us together.
When we use judgment as fuel for change, we can harness it for good.
If you live with conviction and integrity, judgment won’t hurt you.
Sometimes it takes the judgment of others to bring our own problems into focus so we can work through them. Sometimes it takes the wisdom of a whole group of people to move society forward, to leave behind harmful and unjust practices.
Judgment doesn’t have to be a bad thing when you look at it like that.