We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect. The judgement of the intellect is only part of the truth. –Carl Gustav Jung
I like listening to podcasts. One show in particular that I like is called “Get Up On This,” hosted by Jensen Karp and Matthew Robinson. In the show, Jensen and Matty get people up on cool things they might not know about: music, tv shows, board games etc…and once a month they do an episode called “Get Up OFF This,” where the tables are turned and the two aficionados of cool educate people on stuff they may like that isn’t actually cool at all. It’s a fun show, and I usually like Matt Robinson’s grumpy, critical ranting because he’s a smart guy and usually has some good, thoughtful reasons to back up his fiery opinions.
So anyway, I listened to the latest episode and was really enjoying it until about half-way through when the guest, Erin Foster, suggested that people get up OFF not being judgmental. Yeah, I was kind of shocked. In fact, she actually suggested that people be MORE judgmental and not to feel bad when they are judgmental. As much I admired her confession–it takes a certain amount of courage, not to mention self-awareness, to admit you’re a judgmental person–I seriously think she was confusing being opinionated with being judgmental.
In the episode, the argument was made that we, as humans, make judgements all the time, and I have to agree that yes, on a basic semantic level, human beings need to make judgements in life; or to put it another way, we make decisions all the time based on feelings and reasons. But on the other hand, the separate widely accepted definition of “judgmental” has to do with being overly critical in an unhelpful way. I think the reason being judgmental is frowned upon, or looked at in a negative way, is because when we make judgments there is a very real possibility that they could have harmful or negative consequences. Being judgmental may not be the best thing to strive for…
This topic reminds me of two posts I wrote a while back (1, 2) concerning criticizing and critiquing, and how they’re not the same thing. Having opinions is one thing, choosing how we share those opinions with others is a whole other thing.
Anyway, as I see it, the main difference between being opinionated and being judgmental is that, while they both tend to have negative connotations, an opinionated person is usually saying something like, “this is what I think, but I could be wrong.” There is a sense of openness, a hedging of bets, if you will. If someone is sharing their opinion, it’s usually understood that it’s their opinion only and it’s open to debate or discussion. Someone who is being judgmental, on the other hand, has usually come to the conclusion that they’re right and that’s it, no compromise. As I understand it, a good antonym for “judgmental” would be “accepting.” The antithesis of being judgmental is what theologian Miroslav Volf calls “the will to embrace,” and I think that’s what I would get people up ON.
Painting by Sofia Nielsen