How not to judge?


People constantly say not to judge people, but how is this possible? We all make mental remarks based on our past experience, for instance if I see a single mother smoking cigarettes, I will judge that her future will probably be bad.

So how can we not judge?

Conrad C

Posted 2014-04-13T19:06:41.910

Reputation: 139

Question was closed 2014-04-30T19:42:58.110

6This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a psychological problem, not an epistemological one. – iphigenie – 2014-04-13T21:15:33.450

Unfortunately, this is a psychology question. Judging is inherent in how our brains work — we are pattern marchers, and for that, *judgement* is required. If you ask this on cogsci.SE they will only (correctly) say that you cannot completely be "unjudging". However, the statement usually refers to *acting upon your judgement*; for example, you might tell a person what you think of them. The phrase used in this way means only that you should keep your judgments to yourself, as they are — for the layperson — often incorrect about many things, some things in particular more than others. – stoicfury – 2014-04-30T19:53:10.730

You might also act by judging a person, but not doing or saying anything about it and feeling bad about not acting, harming yourself just a little bit. In this case, start by telling yourself that you don't really know that the person is a single mother, the husband could just be away on business, or she might be the aunt/cousin/babysitter of the child. She might be smoking one cigarette a day, which doesn't hurt anyone, or might be quitting smoking. And then you know so little, how would you make the assumption her future will probably be bad? So, not judging her at all seems quite easy. – gnasher729 – 2014-12-09T18:27:19.730

The saying about "not judging" means a very specific thing ... it comes from the Bible and has to do with judging the worth of a person, it does not mean to avoid making predictions. – James Kingsbery – 2016-03-07T16:28:30.657



The original saying "Do not judge," is a Biblical one. In that context, it means not to pass a sentence on someone the way a judge would (in the Biblical logic, not because the person won't be judged but because God reserves the right to judge to Himself).

That of course is different then making statements about how an action fits into a moral framework.

To take your example: smoking is bad for one's health, and if it is "morally" bad (whatever that means) to do things to harm people including one's self, then one could say "smoking is morally bad." But that is a different statement than "smokers are bad people," i.e., to condemn that person to some eternal punishment in your mind.

In many circles, the phrase has been taken to mean not to "judge" any actions, i.e., not to place the actions into any moral framework. Ultimately, this seems to render moral frameworks useless, even very practical ones. In this world view, the fact that someone's actions make their future worse cannot be said to be morally wrong.

James Kingsbery

Posted 2014-04-13T19:06:41.910

Reputation: 5 868


I'm not sure this is really a philosophical question, but I think it's about gaining a broader perspective. To take it to an extreme would imply an all-seeing objective perspective. Except for some notions of God, perhaps this doesn't really exist, but some people demonstrate a "broad mind".

"if I see a single mother smoking cigarettes, I will judge that her future will probably be bad."

-- Bad in whose terms? Yours?

My point is that making a judgement involves applying your own circumstances/perspective to someone else's situation, in the absence of better information. That is : prejudice, in the absence of understanding (incidentally I'm not saying this makes a bad person .. the irony of that isn't lost on me .. )

By understanding a situation more, prejudice disappears and the urge to judge disappears. Perhaps the single mother is smoking because she's about to go for a job interview and is nervous, or she used to smoke 20 a day, has cut down to 3 a day and that's what you're seeing.

Another way of achieving this if you can't find out more about the circumstances is to understand the points at which you're applying your own perspective. Try to view the different possibilities of how what you're seeing could arise.

Alternatively imagine it from the point of view of a third person, perhaps from another country or culture, seeing you and the single mother next to each other. You don't know much about the stranger's culture, so you can't second-guess what they'll think about you or the single mother.


Posted 2014-04-13T19:06:41.910

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