“The reservation of judgement is a matter of infinite hope”
–The Great Gatsby, Scott F. Fitzgerald
Judgements come naturally to humans. They are a part of evolution, a part of necessarily weighing risks to gain advantage over other animals. We need to be able to judge situations, judge threats, judge rewards, and we’re designed to act in our best interests, or perhaps the interests of our perceived group.
Judgement often receives negative connotations, and for good reason. As much as it helps us to avoid risk, it also causes us to miss opportunities. As much as it can help us to preserve our ‘pack’, it also causes us to forgo change and growth.
In my experience, we most often form judgements for to attempt to protect ourselves, but placed in a situation where we find ourselves lacking true evolutionary threats, it often becomes more harmful than good. That’s not to say we should never judge, that we should never condemn someone to our bad books if necessary.
In The Great Gatsby, the main character (named Gatsby, in case you haven’t read it) falls victim to his refusal to judge someone he cares about who ultimately destroys him. In a sense, though, he really destroys himself.
It’s peculiar how we readily exclude someone we do not know, but are eager to make any number of excuses for people we love. We should seek justice in our judgement – after all, many people in life will ultimately surprise you.
That’s not to say we should throw caution to the wind, but perhaps we should be a little more lenient, more merciful. When someone does something you disagree with, I’ve found it’s important to first ask myself if I know their reasons for their actions. Without knowing that, I cannot know if they do ill.
This doesn’t apply in all cases, of course. It’s easier to find justification for, say, throwing out a full loaf of bread (it was stale?) than it is for murdering someone (err, premonition about future evils they may commit? I think that story’s been done already).
Ignorance and prejudice can only be combated by understanding, and gaining understanding requires a certain degree of will on the part of the individual to postpone their judgement. If you apply this logic to life generally, you can see that there are a great many things that can be made easier through it.
Patience in the hope of understanding is ultimately more productive than judgement for fear of being hurt. If we never risk harm, we will likely never gain the very greatest things in life. Love, for one, necessarily requires that we be vulnerable. It’s counter-intuitive for those that are risk averse, but necessary for those that desire it.
It comes down to where you want to draw the line, how much you’re willing to risk and how much you want to gain. Safety is fleeting and stunts our growth, but a little risk goes a long way. Most of all, being quick to judge never does anyone justice.