We all heard of Jane Austen’s timeless love classic, “Pride and Prejudice” (see wiki-link). Many have been delighted by the tale of the protagonists Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the great heroine and hero of the day. How they overcame their pride and prejudices as well as discovered the notion that “Nice” is not the same as “Good”, through their memorable adventures, mistakes and redemption!
“Elizabeth and Darcy” An illustration by Hugh Thomson 1894
Definition of Prejudice and Judgement
Likewise, we all heard the mantra “Judgement is bad. Do not Judge”
Is this the same as not being prejudiced? Let us examine the lexicon as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, and stated below,
Prejudice is preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
Judgemental is having or displaying an overly critical point of view.
Judgement is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions
Other commonly used dictionaries have similar definitions.
The Misconception of Judgement
Well, in most cases, it is unnecessary to belabour over small conversational inaccuracy, especially if harmless. Some inaccuracy and little differences in viewpoints are part and parcel of conversation, and we need not and should not try to clarify everything.
And much as the preference is not to undertake this task, there is an unfortunate need to. The word “Judgement” has been so abused that the idea of “Non Judgement/Non discernment” has taken on a life of its own, and there is actually far reaching consequences to Culture.
Let me explain here.
Clarification of the Judgement Misnomer
There is a marked distinction between “Judgement”, “Prejudice” and being “Judgmental”.
Judgement is borne of deep consideration and sensibility, a key skill required, used sparingly and only when necessary, to protect ourselves and not to hurt. On the other hand, Prejudice is not based on reason or experience, and being Judgemental is doing too much to the point of error (aka exercising all the time to the point of heavy breakdown/damage).
Harmfulness of Prejudice and Being Judgemental.
Apartheid, reduction of capacity and opportunity are terrible manifestations of Prejudice. There is also no need to be judgemental e.g. to nitpick over harmless preferences and diversity of others, over-measuring them in non relevant areas, making others feel inadequate unnecessarily or depriving them of opportunity.
Benefits of Good Judgement
In actuality, there are important times when “judgement/measurement” is appropriate:
i) we judge/assess people and situations to protect ourselves e.g. we won’t want to let a drunk person drive us home, and will probably dive for cover when a crazy looking guy whips out a semi-automatic etc;
ii) we are wary of anyone who make us offers that are too good to be true, and do extra checks to ascertain the background and validity;
iii) we recognize and differentiate a bully, thief and a debtor who never repays debt, extremist etc from others, to prevent ourselves from being continually harmed by the person. At the same time, we may recognize/judge that people can change for the better, so we do re-assess at an appropriate time and in safety;
iv) we know when we do not have enough evidence, and stop ourselves from being prejudiced.
“Lady Catherine and Elizabeth” Illustrated by C. E. Brock, 1895
The Far Reaching Consequences
It is un-required Prejudice and being overly Judgmental that we need to deal with, not good Judgement. Good Judgement is required to correctly recognize, deal with anti-social and extremist behaviour (see footnote), We do not prejudice harmless diversity.
That said, too many people are using the word “Judgement/Careful assessment” as a misnomer for Prejudice or being Judgmental. In the confusion of false Empathy and “Non Judgement/Non Assessment”, highly anti-social behaviour such as admitted extreme selfishness and other harmful behaviour (see footnote) etc becomes more tolerable, even acceptable, vindicated and flaunted culturally.
Some of the confused even lose the ability to know and distance themselves from the recalcitrant, becoming repeated victims, and worse, destroying their own positive world views, and become more easily radicalized.
Hence, we need good judgement, to distinguish between perpetual blatant offenders and occasional mistakes, and act accordingly.
Let us improve our capacity for humility, apply good judgement where necessary, reduce unfounded prejudice; to protect ourselves, but not to hurt. At the same time, let us remind ourselves and others not to wrongly promote the bias of the word “Judgement”.
Through clearing this misnomer and using the correct lexicon “Prejudice” or “Judgemental”, we can reduce the sway of blatant propaganda, flaunting and acceptance of extreme anti-social behaviour through the flawed but seductive defence of “Non Judgement”.
Just like Elizabeth and Darcy, through clearing prejudices, learning humility and making the good judgement, we will find Love and Beauty while banishing the false, manipulative, dangerous!
Thank you for reading and/or sharing!
PS: Update for 17/11/2015. This post was coincidentally made hours before the Paris terror attacks by ISIS/Daesh. Through careful and humble judgement, we are against the mindless violence on the innocent in Paris, and feel sad for Parisians. At the same time, we do not prejudice most Muslims, who are peaceful and who spoke out against Daesh terrorism.
For those who want to understand more about ISIS/Daesh, please refer to this Wikipedia link, detailing the ISIS crimes of ethnic cleansing, slavery etc. The question is not about reprisals for revenge, but more of how to exercise good judgement to solve the root of the Daesh crimes against humanity.
(It is in all probability that Daesh will not stop their crimes against humanity even if they are left alone. Rather they will likely commit more crimes.)
Image Credit: Davide Restivo