How was your meal? Well, it was a bit salty and lacked this or that. Did you see what they were wearing? What are they thinking, buying that house? I could continue these statements for the next six pages. You know why? Because I am a judgment machine and I would venture to say so are you! The majority of our thoughts go something like this: “Do I like it, or don’t I like it?” You are doing it right now as you read this article. “Should I keep reading, or should I move on?”
What should we judge, and what should we avoid judging? This article contains some guidelines for ensuring that we are not judging for the sake of choice. There are two types of judgment, so let’s break them down.
Critical judgment is about making ourselves feel better.
It is snarky and arrogant but mainly used as a defense mechanism to support our ego. We might also call this social judgment because it is typically aimed at another person or group. “Can you believe what he did? Did you hear what they said? Did you see what she was wearing?” This type of childish trash talk makes me sick to my stomach because I know the reasoning behind the remarks. We say things like this to make ourselves feel better. It serves no other purpose worth any amount of value. Do you see what I just did? I judged a judgment. Sure does seem hypocritical. In my defense, the intent is to share an example of how we use the judgment of others to make ourselves feel better. Let’s stop it. Judging others in this way brings zero credibility and makes you look ugly, which is the opposite of how we intend for it to be received. Another reason we verbalize our judgment or criticism of others is to build credibility among peers. It is a defense mechanism, and the scary part is we do to it almost instinctively. For us to eliminate this form of judgment, we can develop a trigger that allows us a moment to consider before we speak. We should do our best to avoid conversations that focus on the criticism of others. They serve no purpose of value, and in the end, everyone walks away feeling bad.
Value judgment is the judgment we invoke when making choices and decisions.
A value judgment is almost always subjective because we are all unique. I value non-fiction, but my children like fiction. I prefer my coffee black, but my mother fills it with cream and sugar. I like light blue, and you prefer green. Value judgments are made based on preferences, which we all have.
Values are developed over time and are highly peer-driven. To be clear, I am not a psychologist, but a reader of books and an observer of society. Humans are tribal creatures. We hunger to fit in, and there are few exceptions. We all know or have seen the teen or twenty-something dressed head to toe in black, determined to buck the system. Well, they have a tribe that influences each other and share similar values. There is nothing inherently wrong with such a system, except when we conform for the sake of conforming. If we compromise our values to fit in with the group, we have lost our way. Banning this extreme, we must still stand firm when we are asked to compromise our values.
How to establish a baseline value system?
Ask yourself the following question and document your answers: What values in my life are non-negotiable? (Acts of dishonesty, breaches of integrity, compliance for the sake of fitting in, not defending or standing up for others, etc.)
When you face a decision, big or small, you now have a filter to run it through. It is straightforward, but to do so, you must be intentional. Living our values every day takes intention. Living our values is truly the road less taken. Don’t get trapped by a dogma that is not aligned with your values.
The tricky thing about value judgment is our tendency to use it as a weapon against others. Our society today is obsessed with judging others based on their values. An example is our current state of politics. The individual ideology (value system) of one is used to beat down the other relentlessly. It is unproductive and results in a standstill. The standstill is manageable, but the hate and anger that are spewed undermine the core tenets of society. As a society, we have allowed individual ideology to undermine our core values. It is incredibly selfish and unsustainable. Instead of a focus on the whole, we are hyper-focused on what is best for me. This is largely due to the “me” society that has developed over the last decade. Our marketing is focused on the individual and comparison. One of my favorite sayings is “compare and despair.” Until we get people to focus on a value system that they are not willing to compromise and to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, the spiral of hate will continue. Of course, this is my opinion based on observation and a study of history.
Here are some actions to consider:
- Establish a trigger that will remind you to think before you speak. Is this a constructive or destructive comment I am about to make?
- Get around people that are not focused on criticizing others to help themselves feel better.
- Establish a core set of values that you won’t compromise. Filter decisions and actions through this core value system.
- Reflect often lest you get trapped in a dogma that is not yours, but a product of social construct.