Judgment And The Power Of Nothing To Prove

We all suffer to some degree from the curse of judgment. We get through life without some judgment because we need them to make decisions for ourselves. Yet at the same time, they can the used to bully and are used that way which causes great harm. How do we get out from under this program? That is what our discussion is about today.

The Burden Of Judgment

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, judgment is:

the ability to form valuable opinions and make good decisions:
to show good/sound/poor judgment
I don\’t think you have the right to pass judgment (on others) (= to say whether you think other people are good or bad).
I\’m going to reserve judgment (on the decision) (= not say whether I think it is good or bad) for the time being.
a decision or opinion about someone or something that you form after thinking carefully:
It proved difficult to come to/form/make a judgment about how well the school was performing.

So all of these examples suggest that a certain amount of wisdom is required in order to have what would be called good judgment. So that begs the question, how do we get that wisdom and how do we get good judgment?

What We Are Missing

It is fair to say that if human judgment were wonderful, then we would have a healthier, happier world. We do not, so apparently, there must be something we are missing.

Let’s go back to our childhoods.
This is from an article in Reuters in 2008.

“In a study of 120 young children who were allowed to “buy” food from a play grocery store, researchers found that even 2-year-olds tended to mirror their parents’ usual food choices. Children who stocked up on sweets, sugary drinks and salty snacks generally had parents whose typical grocery list featured such items. Similarly, children with the healthiest shopping habits seemed to be following their parents’ lead as well.The findings, reported in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, suggest that even very young children do not indiscriminately reach for candy when given the chance. Instead, they seem to already be forming food preferences — potentially lasting ones — based on their parents’ shopping carts.

“The data suggest that children begin to assimilate and mimic their parents’ food choices at a very young age, even before they are able to fully appreciate the implications of these choices,” write the researchers, led by Dr. Lisa A. Sutherland of Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, New Hampshire.”

So judgment does not just happen. We accept the judgment of others around us when we are very young as good.  We come into the world open to and expecting good.  We arrive in the spirit of acceptance, and so we take in our world and what we are offered as good, and we learn through imitation, so we internalize what we find as good. We bond with out group and what they offer us.

Judgment And Bonds

The patterns and habits of our families and communities are also an important part of our ability to connect with others. When we adopt the habits of our group, we are treated like part of the group: we belong. When we do not, we are looked at with suspicion; humans can be very harsh in demanding conformity to a set of group standards, whether they are healthy or not. Your loyalty to the group can make or break your relationships and, especially when you are young, affect your survival.

Sometimes the price of belonging is self-harm. There are fields where you are expected to become a drinker and hazing rituals in groups of all kinds that demand some kind of self-harm as the price of belonging. These kinds of loyalty demands are “proof” of your being OK and willing to do whatever you have to and sacrifice whatever you must to belong to the group. They are a form of proof that makes you OK in the eyes of others.

All of this sets up a dynamic in us whereby we fault ourselves for any divergence from the accepted norms of our group and are often faulted by the members of our group. Social norms are a big deal. They make being yourself, self-care, personal development, and living by your own values “dangerous” if your group does not accept you as an individual. That is often the case.
So being yourself and living by values that are different (and even healthier) than your group can see signs of disloyalty or be taken as a rejection by the group. So there is a relationship between judgment, belonging, and survival even.

Most of us are concerned with what other people think, not because there is something wrong with us but because we know the social costs of differences. We know we will be judged by a standard, not of our making, which may be inappropriate for us. It is there, nonetheless.

How Do We Get Out From Under?

We, humans, live by a variety of standards and social norms. One of the reasons we have so much conflict is because our different social norms. However, there is one arrangement that supersedes the others as problematic. It is the dominator model of human culture found in authoritarian systems. Under a dominator model, some make the rules, set the norms, and decide for others. In essence, individuals are disempowered and become tools to be used for the benefit of the dominator system, which always has greater rights. This is not workable and insults human beings subjected to this arrangement. It normalizes abuse and bullying.

It is important to note that our older cultural systems were built on a negative view of humans and deep distrust. Because all of our older systems were fear-based, they were also suspicious of people. That distrust is one of our difficulties in human societies, especially when it hardens into prejudice.

Since authoritarian dominator systems are so prevalent even today, many of the judgments we receive come from those who are aligned with the mindsets and values of these outdated systems. What can we do?

  • The first thing we can do is take judgments with a grain of salt.
  • The second thing we can do is assess how we can minimize harm to ourselves from people who are invested in perpetuating harmful social norms. Perhaps some housecleaning is necessary.
  • Third, We can consider ways in which to support the effort to develop more egalitarian and humane ways of living and working.

The Value Of A Joy Practice

A joy practice helps us align with quality of life and the common good as a foundation and as our purpose. As a result, everything we do can reduce fears in others around us because of the deep friendship that a joy practice offers. This will make it easier for us to own our own judgment and also feel secure about our own decisions so that we are protected to some extent from abusive interactions from others. We do not have to be perfect, but we do need to be constructive. When we are, a lot of negativity and bullying will fade because we wish no one harm, and that will show in our energy. There will be nothing to prove, and it will be evident.

Photo by Art Institute of Chicago on Unsplash

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