Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What does it mean to judge someone?

What does it mean to judge someone? Is it to form an opinion concerning the rightness of an act that someone performed? Or is it to form an opinion regraded the character of the person who performed that act?

If we are talking about the first concept, then if we have a moral standard that proscribes actions that other frequently perform, then we end up often judging others. But I don't see anything wrong with "judging" in that sense. The idea that we have to dumb down all standards of morality for fear of being guilty of judging others seems to me to be ridiculous (though popular). It is more difficult to draw inferences concerning the character of others, however, and so there is a reason to refrain from making these sorts of judgments. But very often we are told we ought not to judge, which ends up meaning we ought not to hold moral standards that would result in our disapproving of the conduct of others.

14 comments:

Ilíon said...

There is also no difficulty in principle to forming a valid opinion regarding the character of the actor.

The difficulty is a matter of practice, not of principle. The difficulty is in knowing that one has enough information to justify the formation of an opinion ... either a negative *or* a positive opinion.

Ilíon said...

For, after all, to approve of another is *also* to judge him.

Gregory said...

The concept of "judging" is very broad, and doesn't necessarily entail moral assessment.

For instance, I can "judge" someones appearance....whether they are well groomed or disheveled....without implying anything moral or immoral about them. Unless, of course, the old adage "cleanliness is next to godliness" is true....but I highly doubt that. I have known some people who were very physically clean and groomed, but, nevertheless, also happened to be very ungodly. And vice versa.

Also, I can "judge" somebody's ideas without making an assessment of their moral character, as well. Believing something that is "false" or "untrue", for instance, does not entail an immoral character....although, it would be a different situation if the person were aware that the idea/s he/she believes, or claims to believe, is false and, yet, doesn't care (i.e. con artists and sociopaths). Or, to put it differently: it's immoral when someone is convinced of the truth and, in spite of it, rejects it [truth] anyway.

But when I tell people that I don't "judge" them, I only mean to say that I am not in a position to adequately assess their spiritual condition in this life; or more especially, in the life to come.

Only God can know and judge the deep down, real "self". Only God can determine whether somebody is, ultimately, for or against Him. And that is why I affirm that God, alone, is the true Judge. If I had a scripture to reference, in support of this, then it would definitely be the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I can make all kinds of "judgments" about the things other people believe, the way they look, and even the way they behave, without implying anything significant about their fundamental moral and/or spiritual character. That is for God, alone, to decide.

As a side note: each of the "seeds" that are thrown onto the different grounds/soil, in the parable of the Sower, are all indicative of the spiritual life of each and every true Christian. Each of us has been the seed that didn't take root at all. Also, each of us has been the seed that was choked out by lusts and worries of the world. Finally, through enduring patience we can become the seed that bears fruit. God, like the good farmer, is constantly tilling the soil of each man's heart so that they can, at long last, become productive in His Kingdom (Matt. 13:18-23).

This is the reason we all ought to put away despair and condemnations, and cling to God with thanksgiving.

Dane Parker said...

It is interesting to explore what people mean when they say "it is wrong to judge someone." In our current climate, when people express it when responding to those who make certain moral claims about certain, say, lifestyles, what such people are typically implying is that it is wrong to make a negative assessment about someone else.

Of course, the one claiming it is wrong to judge someone else in this sense is, in effect, making a negative assessment with regard to someone else whom is making a negative assessment about another. So even the claim "it is wrong to judge other people", at least when directed at another, appears to condemn itself by the very sentiment it expresses. Unfortunately, it would seem this vitiating fact runs at too deep a level for some of our post-modern friends to see.

Ilíon said...

For those determined to not see/grasp truth, even the Everglades run too deeply/

philip m said...

I think the sort of judgment that is meant when people condemn 'judgment' has to do with lowering the worth of a person in your mind. In a world where everyone is very sensitive to whether or not they are valued, 'judging' is a way of saying 'We don't like you, we don't think you should be on earth.' It is a way of rejecting them.

I think most people, perhaps after a little bit of explanation, would recognize the difference between having an opinion on a moral issue, and valuing and loving a person. You can value and love someone to the same degree whether or not they commit some sin or other.

Greg Boyd has a great chapter on this in The Myth of a Christian Religion.

Ilíon said...

As I've pointed once or twice recently, the general "liberal" refusal to appropriately punish heinous crimes says to the victims and survivors: “We don’t value *you* as highly as we do the one who has committed injustice against you.”

“Liberal” “mercy” for the criminal simply adds to the injustice done the victim.

Gregory said...

I tend to think that criticism demonstrates a high degree of regard for someone else.

For instance, criticism is an acknowledgment that someone has said something important. But also, criticism shows that you care enough about that person to actually say something.....and it doesn't matter whether or not your own view is "right".

On my view, "apathy" is the highest form of hatred and contempt.

What I wanted to distinguish was the idea of "criticism", on the one hand, from outright "cursing" and "condemnation", on the other.

I think that it's a common misconception, and a spiritual danger to oneself, to universalize Bible passages without considering the actual point being raised. For instance, people often understand the New Testament story of the "rich man" and "Lazarus" as either a condemnation of "greed" (i.e. all rich people are going to hell, while all poor people are going to heaven)....or as a "proof" of hell as--literally--an eternal furnace. And while those might possibly be true, though I have grave doubts about that, they are not really the point of the story. The point of the "rich man" and "Lazarus" has to do with obstinacy.....that if a person cannot accept the reality of the "shadows" (i.e. Old Testament typologies), as truths pertaining to God, then they will not be able to accept the "substance" (i.e. the fulfillment which is Christ Jesus, Himself) of those typologies, either.

This is an old Rabbinic principle, familiar to Jesus and his audience, of arguing from lesser to greater.

And I point this out as illustrating my point about making "judgments"....often, people make incorrect assessments of spiritual things. What's worse, is that those assessments can be used to "condemn" ourselves....or even worse: condemn others.

Ilíon said...

I quite agree, Gregory.

The Devil Made Me Do It said...

I'm curious to know if any of you think its possible to judge without bias?

Ilíon said...

The problem of humans sitting in judgement is not so much "bias" as double-standard.

Anonymous said...

Maybe not as philosophical as some of the points being made, but just as vitally important and possibly, soon to be lost to us forever:

It may mean that we are selected by a random lottery system, gathered together and then chosen by Licensed Lawyers; both Prosecutor and Defense Officers of the Court, sworn to impartially hear evidence against an accused, and then sent from the courtroom to reasonably judge both the accused and the law of which he/she stands accused and after reasonable discussion with our peers, deliver justice for the accused, the victim and our society as a whole.
So empowered are we as jurists that even the Supreme Court may not overrule our judgment. After appeals, it may decide if a law, a trial judge's or another officer's practice of the the law is constitutional or technically correct, but it cannot change or overturn a jury's judgment.

God Bless the US of A, the only country in the history of the world, in which our founders set up a legal system by which we, the ordinary citizen, are required to judge not only our peers, but also the law by which they stand accused. We were given the power to judge so that we the citizens of the society could always deliver justice even if need be through jury nullification.

To judge someone is to be personally responsible and accountable for the accused, ourselves, and the laws by which we govern ourselves. To abdicate this resonsibility is to affix the chains of injustice upon the accused, ourselves and our society.

Thank You Forefathers!

Rod Getti said...

If I was to say of someone that it is wrong for them to drive there car with no oil in it, would that be judging them? No it wouldn't for the car to preform at its best, the person that made that car would agree that it was wrong to drive the car that way. In like manner if the One that made us says a certain thing is wrong or right how could it be said I was judging them, I'm only repeating a fact that the One that made us states is wrong or right. Does that mean I am to dislike the person because of the wrong action? No dislike the action and love the person.

Maggie said...

I've done a search today on Christians "judging" today and ran across these comments and question. I love some of the points I've read. One of the greatest to add to the discussion was the tone in which we assess a situation:
*It should come from deep humility on our part.
*We should pray for wisdom (ask, seek, knock) in the same Matthew passage
*We should choose our timing/audience carefully (pearls before swine, same passage)
*We should "teach with all gentleness, patience, and fore-bearance"
*We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (another scriptural charge).

*We ARE to be critical thinkers, but not critical in attitude and disposition (Judge rightly, as Jesus said).

*We are to speak the truth in love.

*We are to strive to live exemplary lives so that we are able to hold up a moral standard (Plank/speck verse)