Snap Judgements

“Snap, Snap – I made a Judgement”
A Talk given by David Jones on Oct 17th, 2010

Today’s topic is on learning how to make appropriate judgements in our life so we may continue to grow spiritually.  This topic could also be called learning to discern more clearly spiritually.  To discern is to perceive clearly, to see clearly what is in front of us rather than seeing from a clouded point of view. There is a Russian Proverb that may help us set the tone for our discussion. It is “When you meet a person, you judge him or her by his clothes; when you leave the person you judge your response by the heart.”

Have you heard this story that really demonstrates our perception and judgement?

It is told by a person who is in a bar having a drink. The story goes like this:

“There I was sitting at the bar staring at my drink when a large,
trouble-making biker steps up next to me, grabs my drink and gulps
it down in one swig.
“Well, whatcha  gonna do about it?” he says, menacingly, as I burst into tears.

“Come on, man,” the biker says, “I didn’t think you’d CRY. I can`t stand
to see a man crying.”

“This is the worst day of my life,” I say. “I’m a complete failure.
I was late to a meeting and my boss fired me. When I went to the parking
lot, I found my car had been stolen and I don’t have any insurance. I left my wallet in the cab I took home. I found my old lady in bed with the
gardener and then my dog bit me.”

“So I came to this bar to work up the courage to put an end to it all,
I buy a drink, I drop a capsule in and sit here watching the poison dissolve;
That’s when you, you jerk, show up and drink the whole thing!

But enough about me, how’s your day going?”

What a story! I imagine the biker’s perception of the situation changed dramatically when he realized and understood the truth that he in fact was the one who had just drunk the poison, and well— who knows the consequence?

As Jim Horning says;

~ Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. ~

The definition of judgement is coming to an opinion or decision about something.

Hopefully, as we grow spiritually we learn to make these judgements with increased wisdom. However, how many times have we done something just like the guy in the bar – what appears to the eye at the moment – we believe to be the truth – but with further exploration it is only a part of the truth- but we not only make a judgment – but more importantly we act on the judgment we have made. So let us explore in more detail how to make healthy judgments.

How to make healthy Judgments:

I want to do this! What’s This?

You’ve done it before, made a decision that you regretted or wished you could take back. Making judgments is a part of everyday life – as you often come to conclusions about people you see before you even meet them. The decisions you make can have a drastic impact on your life, opportunities and personal perception, but having a strategy when making decisions will teach you how to make better judgments along the way.

Here are five disciplines that can help you make better judgments: You may want to think of a situation you have had in the last little while and consider your reactions and responses as we go through these five disciplines.

1.    Listen to what is said. One of the most important processes of making a judgment in your primary relationship is to listen to what the other person is saying to you. This often requires you to have an open mind that is not predetermined, but rather, full of attentiveness that is both focused and sincere.

2.    Ask probing questions. This means to ask questions a little more deeply and get beneath only the words a person is saying. For example, what if the biker had thought to ask “Is there anything in that drink that I should be aware of?” Open-ended questions that leave your counterpart with the option to expand on their answer will provide more information in order for you to make your judgment. Asking questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ should only be to clarify a specific point in an explanation.

3.    Weigh the evidence. Whether your judgment is on how you initially feel when meeting someone or on a decision that is difficult and has to be toiled over, you should always consider the provided evidence. Weighing the evidence of truth should be an objective practice that allows you to look at the facts and come to conclusive results before making a decision.

4.    Check yourself first. Am I impulsive/compulsive ? in our bar example we might ask “ do I often grab drinks that I shouldn’t grab!” Your personality and attitude can sometimes get in the way while making judgments when you only focus on what you want to hear or see. This will cause you to only find evidence that supports what you believe instead of what really may be happening. When making a judgment, take the time to ensure that you are checking your attitude and personality at the door before making your choice.

5.    Communicate your final decision effectively. After you have made your judgment, make sure that the way you convey it is in line. Appropriate and effective communication, when you are in an argument for instance, can help dissolve anger that may result from a realistic decision you have come to. Use the appropriate tone of voice and tempo when talking about the situation. This can be an effective tool to use on others when they are listening and deciding to accept or reject your judgments.

Judgmental, prejudiced and biased individuals make far-reaching pronouncements based on limited information. We all know such people. Their false and extreme generalizations give them away.

Here are a few examples of what some people may say in this judgmental way:

“Anyone who uses curse words is obviously stupid and uneducated!”

“Rock-and-roll fans don’t know the first thing about music!”

“People who don’t regularly attend religious services are heathens!” and I don’t even want to get into statements based on prejudices and bigotry in this talk.

However, most people realize that being judgmental is an unattractive trait. If you look around, you’ll find that most judgmental people are disliked and avoided. The answer to Mom’s reproach of, “Why don’t you call your mother more often?” if truthful would probably be, “Because you’re judgmental and tend to pick on me, so it’s unpleasant to talk to you.” When people stop being judgmental, they often discover a level of personal happiness that had eluded them.

Yet none of us can help forming opinions of other people. So how does judgmental thinking differ from making judgments? Let us explore this in detail as the differences in being judgmental and making appropriate judgements is an important task in human and spiritual development.

Judgmental people state their views and observations in authoritative terms; they decree what is right and wrong, what should and should not be, what is good or bad. Making a simple judgment, however, does not carry these ominous overtones. “Billy has poor table manners” is a judgment. The judgmental person would add something, such as “Therefore, he’s a slob who was raised by cavemen!”

We make judgments constantly. “He’s good-looking.” “She dresses well.” “He seems to lack a good sense of humour.” “She’s overweight.”

In forming opinions or making judgments, there is no moral overtone, no further conclusions are drawn, no inferences are made about the person’s character. We just have the observation or the perception.

As soon as we add “therefore” to the observation, we are likely to be judgmental. “He talks very slowly,” is an observation, “therefore, he must be stupid” is a judgmental conclusion.

If you look out for your own “therefores” you are less likely to sit in judgment over your fellow human beings, which will be all to the good for you and them.

Is there a difference between making inferences, drawing conclusion and making judgments?
To me, they all seem like the same strategy.
Inference is when you “read between the lines”. The author does not come out and tell you, but you just know from the reading. For example, Bob’s favourite color is blue, and he is wearing his favourite shirt. What color do you think the shirt is?)

Drawing a conclusion is based on written evidence from the story, so you can make a determination. You can pick out evidence and examples to support your idea. For example, Pandas only eat bamboo. The panda is eating. What is the panda eating?

Making a judgment is when you have evidence to support different ideas, but you pick one idea and someone can pick another and neither is necessarily right or wrong. What is the best idea based on the evidence in the story?
To pass judgment is to give your opinion, especially when it is a criticism.

To reserve judgment is to not give your opinion until you have more information.

So, where are you in all of this discussion with so many definitions to think about?

In what areas of your life do you feel you are too judgmental even on yourself, and what situations do you think you have shown real discernment and wisdom?

David’s Personal Thoughts and Reflections:

Most of us spend a lot of time in life trying to guess how others may judge us and then we attempt to adjust our actions, behaviours, words, our ways, our life accordingly. To some degree this is helpful if we are getting and giving honest perceptions of a situation. But I worry sometimes about my sermons and delivery.  Will they be thoughtful enough? Will they help? What is my delivery going to be like?

So I too have a lot of growth in this area of judging particularly myself and I want to be kinder to myself and judge myself less harshly.

In closing this discussion on this topic of making judgements as seeing more clearly so we may make more informed and wise decisions, here are two quotes that are interesting:

“It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered – shows lack of character.”–Dale E. Turner quotes

~ Many complain of their memory, few of their judgment. ~   Benjamin Frank

Perhaps as we grow as a spiritual community we will all practice these principles of making more discerned judgements about ourselves, our community and society at large?  I do want to add one final thought about Gandhi.  He said that he wanted to see truth (real clear truth) in whatever form it appeared. He gave his whole life to this way of seeing and judging and one time he said that his enemies were his friends. Imagine being able to live that way. And we all can as we practice seeing clearly and discerning with wisdom.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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