Wednesday, July 3, 2019


I have been thinking a good bit in recent days about judgment. Some readers may have noticed that I post some ideas quite regularly on Facebook, and that some of these ideas reflect my take on the current political situation--I think of it as a predicament--we face in the United States. Those who read these entries may have noticed that I have my share of critics--they are welcome!--and that the grounds on which they most frequently call me to account is... judgment.

I'm aware of the potential fallacies involved in making judgments. I was privileged to be involved for many years in the work of an excellent organization of men in which I learned how easily I slip into judgment and then mistake my judgment for the truth. Too often, far from being the truth, that judgment is nothing more than the projection of an unpalatable truth about myself: to take the simplest of examples, if I call someone a rotten writer, it behooves me to address my fear of being myself a rotten writer.

It's important, then, to use judgment wisely and with circumspection. I prefer the word discernment, which suggests a conscious effort to judge skillfully rather than spontaneously and mindlessly. But I am reluctant to accept the notion that judgment is always projection and has no place in reasonable discussion. If I say, then, for example, that the man who occupies our Oval Office (notice the implied judgment there!) is cruel, ignorant of history and precedent, incompetent and rash, I suppose that there is some shadow part of me that is cruel, ignorant, incompetent and rash. Okay, I own it. But to acknowledge this is not to invalidate my judgment, which is based on facts and information gathered from a number of sources, on the man's actual words and actions in the world.

I see judgment then, or discernment if you like, as a valuable, even indispensable tool in my ethical perception. Rather than "good" or "evil" I prefer to think of skillful or unskillful actions, actions that result in benefit or harm to myself or others, and I believe it important to call out those that are unskillful, that bring nothing but more suffering into a world that already has too much of it. It may be a "judgment" to call the Tr*mp administrations treatment of asylum-seekers cruel and inhuman, but there is ample evidence of the suffering that results.

I will need to make a judgment, too, when it comes to the election. I will need to judge between candidates in the primary, and between the parties' nominees in November, 2020.  And that's more than mere judgment, that's an awesome responsibility.

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