Judgement: the good, the bad and the — well, you know. . .

Our brains evolved (or were designed, if you must) to be judgmental, to assess situations at a glance and classify them as good or bad, dangerous or advantageous — just as you are doing with regard to the first part of this sentence. The ability to do this quickly and form opinions rapidly helped keep our ancestors alive in an uncertain world and assisted them in evaluating the relatively simple issues of their lives and the lives of those around them. They passed these abilities on to us. These inherent skills serve us well in many instances, but we have to be careful. Life is more complicated now.

Judgement, by its nature, leads to tunnel vision. If something is perceived as good, we look for good to appreciate. If we assess something as undesirable, we tend to look for undesirable things. We are likely to develop a cognitive bias* that can cause us to miss the good that may accompany a person or situation, and that bias influences what we are able learn from it.

Sometimes it is best to simply note things, and avoid judging them. This is especially true in situations where we may realize that we have a bias. If I was frightened by a dog as a child, I am unlikely, later in life, to enjoy the pleasure that can be found in canine companionship. However, if I am aware of the reason for my discomfort, I may — if sufficiently motivated — overcome it and become tolerant of dogs, if not a “dog person.”

Judgement leads to blaming. If we judge our addiction as a “bad” thing — a moral failing, a weakness of character, etc. — we will become judgmental about the things surrounding it and start blaming ourselves, partners, parents, employers, lovers, and other influences for our problems. If we recognize it as a disease that is treatable and well-understood by the medical and psychological establishments, we are able to perceive it as something that is perhaps within our ability to overcome.

We may, as a result of treatment and therapy, discover underlying issues that contributed to our development of the disease — the things that caused us to want to change the way we felt. However, we will approach those things from a far healthier perspective as a result of understanding our disease as a problem to be dealt with, rather than something for which we blame ourselves or others.

We need to approach all the “issues” in our lives with attention and care, rather than the contempt that comes with judging. If others have caused us pain or harmed us through action or inaction, we can look for and appreciate their pain that contributed to it. We can view them with hope: that they may learn from and deal with their pain as we have learned from and are dealing with our own, and look for what we can learn from them.

Through understanding and compassionate appreciation, we not only free ourselves from the blaming trap, we understand that they are flawed, as we are. That, in turn, removes the fear that some morally superior person is going to judge us, and allows us the freedom to be ourselves.
*A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that affects the decisions and judgments that people make. Sometimes these biases are related to memory. The way you remember an event may be biased for a number of reasons and that in turn can lead to biased thinking and decision-making.

2 thoughts on “Judgement: the good, the bad and the — well, you know. . .

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