Do you judge? Or are you judgmental?
Wait, what? You mean there’s a difference? I submit to you there is, though we can use different words, if you’d like: discerning versus judgmental. Better?
Leon, a 40-something single, tells you he likes dating the young 20-somethings. You, Denise, a 50-something divorcee, thinks that’s gross and immature. What do you do?
a. Tell him he’s an immature jerk
b. Tell all your girlfriends he’s an immature jerk
c. Wish him a happy life and send him on his way
And in the spirit of gender-balance.
Felicity, a 32 year old single girl, likes dating wealthy men. You, Pavel, a 42 year old painter, thinks that’s shallow and greedy. What do you do?
a. Tell her she’s a gold-digging trollop
b. Tell the guys at the bar she’s a gold-digging trollop
c. Wish her a happy life and send her on her way
I’m being rather transparent, aren’t I. You know what I think the answer should be. Don’t judge me!
We all have some sense of right and wrong. If we look closely, however, we’ll see that not all of our beliefs are universal. Murder? Yeah, that’s pretty universal. Stealing? Yup, that too. Smoking pot? Not so much. Following a particular religion? Hardly. Mounds versus Almond Joy? Them’s fightin’ words!
I try to visualize it like this. There’s a bubble that surrounds you. Like a force field. And not that shimmery, boxy force field from David Lynch’s 1984 film, Dune. Trust me. This bubble is your life. Everything that happens within that bubble is your domain. All of your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are yours to exercise as you see fit within your bubble.
Everyone has their own bubble, with the same rules of the road inside the bubble. So, what happens when their belief system comes into contact with yours and they don’t mesh? If you chose answer c. in the questions above, you showed discernment. You did not allow them into your bubble. If you chose answers a. and/or b. you tried to reach into their bubble and change their rules.
“But,” you ask, “doesn’t answer c. mean that I condoned their behavior, which I disagree with? No, no, no. You exercised your right to set boundaries by refusing them entry into your bubble. You also gave them the liberty to own their own bubble. This is how societies have worked for thousands of years. At least, before we tried to legislate the contents of our bubbles into everyone else’s. I’ll explain.
When a large majority of a society shares a similar belief – a component of our bubble – we are able to take advantage of many of society’s benefits: community and support, for instance. When we hold dissimilar beliefs, we are shunned. We lose the benefits of the society. If the value of those benefits is high enough, an individual can and likely will chose to modify their beliefs. Those who do not will remain shunned. That assumes there isn’t a different society that holds the same beliefs for him or her to gravitate toward.
Leon, for example, may well find himself shunned by the large community of mature women where he lives. If, however, there are sufficient 20-somethings who welcome him, there’s no need to modify his beliefs. He has a place to live his life the way he chooses. If there aren’t enough young ladies, though, he is at liberty to change his lifestyle. But he doesn’t have to!
And so, when we deny someone access to our bubble, if that person values us enough, they might choose to reevaluate the contents of their bubble. If they choose not to, let them move on through discernment, but don’t be critical through judgment. It is our right to decide what we want our lives to be. We must give others the right to make the same decision. So, take a pass on being judgmental.
And pass me a Mounds bar.
Steve is the founder of Straight Talk Entertainment and currently produces and writes for the audio drama Aural Traditions, recently voted Charleston City Paper’s Best Local Podcast. He’s also an Information Security professional and avid shark tooth hunter.