In Defense of Judgement: or the problem with “no-judgement” attitudes

Pagan Blog Project Week 20:  J2 is for Judgement.  Before I get into it I want to point out some other great posts on PBP for Judgement over at The Druid Bird, Pagan Perspectives, and Tree of Learning Circle.  I respect these bloggers and their viewpoints, so I wanted to throw that out there before I dive into my defense of judgement.  Judgement has been welded like a weapon by nearly everyone at some point in life, it’s normal.  We have all been hurt by being judged unfairly by someone. We all know what that’s like. We are judged constantly. I am not saying that is okay and go ahead and use your judgement like a nuke. 

Pagan circles have a lot of “no judgement” attitude going on and I have a real problem with this philosophy.  First and foremost, we all use judgement and we all judge others.  It takes a lot more than professing to be nonjudgemental to act in a nonjudgemental way.  So, it’s been my experience the people who are most vocally “not judgmental” will be the first to make fun of a “fluffy bunny” or someone who has a more unusual path.  A lot of times Pagan communities can use this “no judgement” attitude as a way to be “better” than other communities.  This is problematic because they aren’t any better.  Also, that’s judging.  The second issue I have with this attitude is when taken seriously it’s ridiculous and leaves the Pagan community completely open to all kinds of harm and general bad people.  If you don’t exercise your judgement, you cannot have any boundaries, and that leaves you open to all kinds of BS.  You must use judgement, within communities and on a personal level. (Though I sincerely hope no one is professing to have this “no judgement” attitude on a personal level.)

We all need our judgement, it’s a powerful weapon for our own protection.  Judgement is the thing inside that tells us when our boundaries are crossed.  Boundaries are important because they are how we protect ourselves. Our boundaries are what we will not tolerate from others.  For example, I think everyone can agree that unwanted sexual attention – especially touching or anything going beyond that, would be crossing a boundary.  That behavior is not okay for me, or anyone I know.  I am also making a judgement about that person’s behavior: it is unacceptable.  As a result of this judgement of unacceptable behavior, I should talk to this person about the behavior and let them know it’s not okay. If they continue with the unacceptable behavior, then it’s healthy that I would decide not to associate with them.

Judgement is a powerful tool and needs to be used correctly.  Some things it does more harm than good to be judgmental about.  Other people’s lifestyle choices that do no put you or anyone vulnerable at risk for example, aren’t worth your time and will only make you look like an ass.  Other people’s personal religious beliefs and practices: again how does this affect you?  If they play nice with others then that should be the end of it.  In Paganism, we are not all the same.  We need to remember this and strive to look at our reactions before we speak.  Just because judgement is powerful does not mean we should avoid it because sometimes those practices DO affect us:  if you’re going to require coven members to engage in sexual acts with you or you exclude them, I probably can’t convince you not to take this path, but I sure as hell don’t have to stand with you and be your friend because we both identify as Pagan.

On the other hand because judgement is such a powerful weapon we have to wield it carefully.  We can’t just go about chopping off heads because we’re offended.  When your BS detector goes off, don’t ignore it to be “nonjudgemental”; you simply make a mental note to further investigate whatever it was that sent your BS detector off later.  You might find  that you were right and have to act on your instincts. Alternatively, maybe it was a “false alarm” and examine your own reactions to figure out why you felt that way. Before you make a judgement consider: How does this affect you and your community? Are your feelings rooted in a belief system you have rejected or a personal experience with from the past with someone else?  Or, are your feelings rooted in parts of yourself you have difficulty accepting and loving? Notice, none of these things are about the persons being judged: this is all internal.  We are naturally threatened by things that reflect something we dislike in ourselves.

Other people, like communities, can help us to examine our own feelings and come to good judgements.  Before the previously mentioned Drama-con, I met with this woman to get to know her and because The Husband didn’t want to go to meet her alone.  I’m also going to put it out there; The Husband has Asperger’s and Aspies don’t have the best judgement.  In fact, that can be no judgement in that they don’t necessarily have the tools to have a BS detector at all.  (I’d give you the science on this but I don’t have those links anymore, just one of the many interesting facts I’ve learned about Aspergers this symptom is related to difficulty recognizing facial expressions and sarcasm.) This happened before the diagnosis and I ignored my intuition because he thought she was “fine.” First she said that her last tech quit because his wife had a “problems with him being around other women.” Next, when I expressed a concern about the amount of time these “investigations” take up pointing out to The Husband that as it is he now uses the “not enough time” excuse to not do things as a couple so I didn’t think this was going to work out. Finally, she pulled me aside to have a talk “woman to woman” about how I should be more supportive of my man.  So, red flag because why is this woman basically trying to bully me into doing something I know will be worse for my relationship? Anyway, this was a time when I shouldn’t have ignored those instincts because later things went badly per-dramacon and The Husband’s last meeting with her being full of unwanted touching.  I have no issues saying she’s just not good people for a host of reasons. Moral of the story: trust your instincts and FOLLOW UP with them.  If you didn’t like the first sniff of something, and later something else smells bad, go ahead and don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns.  Don’t let situations grow to outrageous proportions because you don’t want to be judgmental.

Communities also engage in this judging behavior.  Though, it’s more complicated when more than one person is involved. As individuals in the community, we  have to use our judgement on everyone on an individual basis to detect BS from others and make sure their own baggage isn’t clouding their judgements.  An advantage of having a community is you have more people to confer with about your reactions.  It does help if you have a group of people dedicated to being nonjudgemental first because you know you can trust their responses.  When everyone agrees to step back from the situation and look at their reactions and feelings before you talk about it, they can help you come to the best conclusions.  We have already been suffering from the ills of exercising no judgement.  Pagan communities are thought to be full of sex addicts, pedophiles, baby sacrifices and any number of things. Every once in a while, a sex scandal pops up to prove this point and we have to start from the beginning.  This isn’t fair and we can’t control other’s judgements of us, but we can make the problems even less likely to occur.  Exercising good judgement at the group level is a difficult but worthwhile task and I hope as a Pan-Pagan community we can agree to drop the “no judgement” line and exercise Good Judgement.

About Pixie

I'm just your average 20-something trying to figure it out. I am also a theologian, yogi, witch, pagan, dirty hippie, activist (progressive politics), feminist, knitter, environmentalist, and friend. I've also been accused of being a hipster - I am not sure about that. I am sometimes happy to be Gen Y (go Harry Potter) and most of the time confused (seriously guys... ) by everyone else. My hobbies including knitting (and maybe crochet), quilting, recycling, cooking, writing, reading, and biking. I'm finishing up a masters in public policy and when I worked worked in political nonprofits as an activist.
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5 Responses to In Defense of Judgement: or the problem with “no-judgement” attitudes

  1. helmsinepu says:

    I think a lot of the ‘bad’ judgement is not giving beginners the benefit of the doubt. Sneer at them instead of pointing them at better information. If they refuse to learn and grow, that’s a different story.
    I suppose someone who tends to be unethical might actually promote a “don’t judge” stance to give themselves more scope.

    • Pixie says:

      Maybe – well not giving beginners the benefit of a doubt is definitely I think a hurtful judgement. But I think the issue with “no judgement” is that it’s like a excuse for poor judgement. It’s much easier to just let everyone in your community than to police the boundaries to keep sketchy people out. This is especially difficult to do in occult communities I think because magic is generally amoral and there isn’t a shared set of values among all Pagans.

  2. Pingback: When It’s OK to Judge | Writings of a Pagan Witch

  3. Pingback: Discernment « The Twisted Rope

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