We all heard of Jane Austen’s timeless classic, “Pride and Prejudice” (see wiki-link). Many delight at the tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, how they overcame their pride and prejudices, as well as discovered the notion that “Nice” is not the same as “Good”. What memorable adventures, mistakes and redemption!
“Elizabeth and Darcy” An illustration by Hugh Thomson 1894
Likewise, we have heard of the familiar mantra “Judgement is bad. Do not Judge”
Definition of Prejudice and Judgement
Is making judgement the same as being prejudiced? Let us examine the lexicon as defined by Oxford Dictionaries,
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 prevalently used dictionaries have similar definitions.
The Common Misconception of Judgement
It is unfortunate that the word “Judgement” is widely mis-used in the day to day, and that the idea of “Non Judgement/Non Discernment” is popular, causing harm to Culture.
A marked distinction exists between “Judgement”, “Prejudice” and being “Judgemental”.
Judgement is borne of deep consideration and sensibility, a key skill required, used sparingly and only when necessary, to protect ourselves, 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 breakdown).
Harmfulness of Prejudice and Being Judgemental.
Apartheid, reduction of capacity and opportunity on the other hand, are terrible manifestations of Prejudice. There is also no need to be judgemental e.g. to nitpick over harmless preferences and diversity of others, to over-measure in non relevant areas, to make others feel inadequate unnecessarily or to deprive others of fair opportunity.
Benefits of Good Judgement
In actuality, there are important times when judgement and measurement is needed:
i) we 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 an automatic;
ii) we are wary of anyone who make us offers that are too good to be true, and do extra checks to ascertain background and validity;
iii) we recognize and differentiate a bully, a thief or a debtor who never repays debt from others, to prevent ourselves from being continually harmed. At the same time, we may recognize that people can change for the better, and so 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
By confusing “Judgement” with “Prejudice”, and declaring “Judgement” as evil, we lose the key tools to combat societal ills, ie our willingness to weigh in with reason, and give the fair and neccessary critque. In the confusion of false Empathy and “Non Judgement/Non Assessment”, highly anti-social behaviour such as admitted extreme selfishness and other harmful behaviour becomes more tolerable, even acceptable, sometimes vindicated and flaunted culturally.
The confused even lose the ability to know and distance themselves from the recalcitrant, becoming repeated victims. 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 to protect ourselves, but not to hurt, as well as reduce unfounded prejudice .
By using the correct lexicon, we can rehabilitate the word “Judgenet”, and can reduce the sway of blatant propaganda, flaunting and acceptance of extreme anti-social behaviour through the flawed but seductive defence of “Non Judgement”.
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.
Image Credit: Davide Restivo