We all are aware of the admonishment, “Judge not lest you be judged.” Yet, how are we to decide good from bad without judgment of some kind? Our court system is built upon the very principle of fair judgment. So, is the serial killer to be judged for his/her actions?
The question is really an exercise in judgment itself, for the real question is what we are supposed to judge and not who. Think about that for a moment. A crime is committed and as a collective society, we agree it is indeed a crime. Say a life has been taken, are we judging the person or the act? Can we actually separate the two? The guilty party may be guilty of the act, but is it the person we judge or the action?
I suggest that if we are to follow the Biblical admonishment, we are not judging the person so much as we are determining the good or bad in an action. The courts are prepared to consider mitigating circumstances, but they are designed to evaluate the reasons behind an action. We are not ever truly able to know the inner workings of another’s mind and even if we were, judging this person is, to use a cliché, over our pay grade.
Who is to judge?
We all have made mistakes and we all have reasons for our actions, even if we recognize that we should have acted differently. We seek to understand ourselves and improve on our life’s worth, and in doing this we often uncover action error after error that we would like to have back. So, what qualifies us to judge another? I think that is the purpose underlying the admonishment, “Let those among you without sin cast the first stone.”
That said, we are all capable of judging an action. We can effectively determine right from wrong, at least on generally accepted principles. As such, it is not the person but the action that we judge.
Right action ambiguity?
However, when the generally accepted principles underlying right action become vague, contested, relative, or in other ways eroded—what are we to judge then? Sometimes, in today’s world, it seems that we condemn people because we disagree about what constitutes right action. The world is changing, and old value anchors are being challenged—often rightfully so. As such, instead of attempting to judge action, we see people becoming harsher and harsher in their judgment of their fellow human beings.
What are we to do about this? As individuals, I believe it is incumbent on each of us to suspend all judgment until we have fully fleshed out the issue, listened intently to opposing views, challenged our own biases, and come to some reasonable focus on the issue. In other words, our world forces us today to hold our own courts, courts in our mind, that fairly present all the evidence, before we judge an action. Given that we do our best to do this, at least two things will emerge. First, we will better understand the issues and those who may hold opposing views. Second, our judgment will not be based on individuals but on the action. This latter will lead to more civility at the very least.
Those are my thoughts, I always welcome yours.
Thanks for the read,
Provocative Enlightenment Radio
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusion