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The concept of judgment is an unavoidable part of the life of both legal practioner and theologian. It is perhaps in fusion of these two distinct approaches to a common word that I craft my contextual understanding of the word when I talk of it now to you. We both crave to judge, be judged and to receive dispensation from judgment. As if humans weren’t complex enough.

At the heart of many a human being is the desire to be accepted, to belong. The cathartic act of belonging is so vital that many ascribe large social destructive groups to this same desire for social identity. If you support one football club, you define yourself (partially if you’re normal, entirely if you’re an ultra) by this identification with a group. This is a strongly judgmental drive, operating at the collective level. We talk of us and them, East and West and a multitude of variations of this concept. The idea is simple; us the great and good, against them the not so good and frankly mediocre. We may not vocalise it as that, but the judgment is collective and comprehensive; our values are better and righter then your values. And you may not know it, but it is okay becuase we do.

On the other hand we have a strong desire to be individuals, and not only to be individual but to be free from the consequences of our individuality. One of those trivial stories that encompass many a childhood for me is the day when a class mate got what may be described with faint exaggeration as a most ridiculous hair cut. When I met him, I looked, nodded and smiled. The greatfulness of his look was almost palpable; he told me that I was the first person who had seen him that day and not laughed. Its an event I’ve taken to heart as perhaps the strongest marker of the value of non-judgmental behaviour that I have ever encountered. There are other events, that in retrospect aslo should stand testament to me of the value of non-judgment, but my reader is wise and one example should suffice them.

And of course we have the desire to be judged. We want to know when we’re making gaffes, when we’ve erred or when there is an easier course available to us. We want the feedback, the reinforcement, the criticism that is so essential to any improvement of either methodology or individuality. We don’t want to be stuck in a rut, and certainly most people are aware that they are assessing themselves in a continual process as they interact with the rest of the world. At the same time of course, we don’t want this judgment to be too harsh, because the full fury of judicial scrutiny is often too harsh to be taken on an every case basis.

I have no idea how people balance these notions of their self and external judgment, or whether any question of balance is even viable. It seems that we clatter from one extreme to another, self-doubt (which is nothing more then pre-judging ourselves) to mass societal condemnation (which is collective judgment usually without facts) to victory and vindicatoin (judgments accepted to be worng) without any worries about the conceptual clarity of what we do on a daily basis or why we do it. I just know that not judging seems to go down with people a lot better then holding the standards of Cato or Gladstone, but at the same time, I find myself unable to refrain every day and in every circumstance from passing judgment.