brown wooden gavel on brown wooden table

Judging Judgment (I Know, Too Cute by Half. Not a Promising Start)

In The Great Gatsby, its narrator asserts in the opening paragraphs that he makes a point of not judging people. He then goes on, roughly one paragraph later, to start judging people, places, you name it, and barely a page goes by in which he fails to not only judge people, but do so in a delightfully dry and at times super-catty, mean teenage girl sort of way (I’m also convinced Nick is clearly in denial about his sexual nature. If he’s not at least bi-curious, try to make sense, for example, of the end of the second chapter. Go on. I’ll wait. Did you read it? See?). I’m surprised how little scholarship on the novel has been devoted to this.

But that’s not the point of this post, if it can be said to have a point. As of now, it’s an open question. I hope it turns out to have one. Those are usually the best kinds of posts. Fingers crossed!

I’m writing this to confess I’m very judgmental. I try not to be. I try really hard not to be. And a good 95% of my judgments are never voiced. But despite my efforts not to judge, I have fallen well-short of the mark, in my judgment. Of course, like almost anything, judgment of others can be both good or bad. In fact, I want to say judging others can be a positive. Is this the point? Maybe. Let’s find out.

We judge other people when we make friends. We judge other people when we fall in love, or decide this person selling me a time-share isn’t telling me everything. So, my point is that judging is not only necessary in life, but also a source of some of life’s greatest experiences.

Great. I had a point in this post. Shortish post for me, but that’s good, too.

However, (crap; maybe that isn’t the point of this post. Could this post have two points? That feels awfully ambitious for the likes of me) when people get all judgy about being judgmental, it’s the other kind they’re talking about. And damned if I don’t do that dozens of times a day. Today’s notable one was when I glimpsed a man going by wearing his hair in a man-bun, I think it’s called.

Now, this look is very dignified, assuming you’re a samurai in feudal Japan. But I’m willing to bet almost anything this man was not a feudal-age samurai. He was alive, for one thing, and also, he just didn’t present in an overtly samurian way.

But A) Who am I to judge someone else’s grooming/fashion choices? My daughter reliably informs me I have little insight into fashion. Second, I’m awfully judgmental for someone who temporarily blinded himself last week by vigorously shaking a bottle of salad dressing with the cap off.

For the record, that actually happened.

And C), why would I have an opinion about something so superficial? The fact I have a pejorative view of his hair says a lot more about me than Evan (that’s probably not his real name, but it’s more likely to be “Evan” than “Man Bun Guy”). And what it has to say isn’t pretty.

And you see what happened back there? I not only subjected Jeff (on reflection, he looked more like a “Jeff” than an “Evan”) to my scorn, but myself as well. I find passing negative judgment on others tends to boomerang back to me. Judge me if you must, but your judgment of me is nothing compared to the judgment I routinely judge of myself. Moreover, my judgment, in my judgment, would likely be in agreement with your judgment, assuming it’s an unflattering judgment.

Yes, judgment like that never helps anyone, least of all the judge, but it’s also sort of baked into the way the human mind works. It’s a pretty important survival tool, after all. So maybe cut yourself – and me, while you’re at it – a little slack. We’ve all heard the quote, or a variation of the quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Some people attribute this to Plato, but it almost certainly wasn’t him. In fact, no one actually knows who said it (or something like it) first. Which is a shame, because as quotes go, it’s pretty damned pithy.

So, for the purposes of bookkeeping* and clarity, I’ve chosen to attribute it to the only surviving member of the Monkees, Mickey Dolenz. Because why not? He’s been around the block. No doubt he has some wisdom to share. Also, “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday”** – both sung by Dolenz – are highly underrated songs.

Anyway, this quote, first uttered by Mickey Dolenz, is always worth remembering, at least for me. And if I can get myself to remember that more often, both as it applies to others and myself, then I’m willing to bet life will go a lot better for both me and those around me. Even for Brandon. Yes, he looked more like a “Jeff” than an “Evan,” but he really, when I think about it, looked like a quintessential Brandon to me. And that is said without any judgment.

*This is only word in the English language with three consecutive pairs of matching letters. And yes, there’s also “bookkeeper,” but you get the point.***

*** God, Jack, please shut off your rambling mind for just five minutes.

** Fun fact, although “fun” is all relative: this song was written by the great hit-making husband and wife duo of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Also, Neil Diamond wrote the theme song for the show. And I think we’ve now reached the point in which I’d argue you’d be justified in judging me, and none too favorably, either.

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11 thoughts on “Judging Judgment (I Know, Too Cute by Half. Not a Promising Start)

  1. There is a Biblical quote that says something like, “Judge not lest ye be judged and found wanting.” Judging others is a bad habit that ought to be dealt with. Most such judgments are not productive in any way and unless you’re Solomon, most judgments are going to be wrong.

    I find that the less I judge people or life in general, the happier I have become. I think it is my inner Stoic.

  2. I think we are all guilty of this, however much we try not to do it. No doubt Evan or Jeff or Man Bun has made the odd judgement too! Great read!

  3. Life has a way of making us eat crow when we judge others. I’ve seen this time and time again and have learned to respect it

  4. At the risk of being judgemental, I must say, in my humble opinion, this is the funniest blog post I have read today. In other words, I judge this blog entry to be funny. Also, in my humble opinion, a positive judgement is not a bad thing. Think of it as a suspended sentence. Court adjourned!

  5. Being pretty judgmental myself, I can relate to much of what you said. It’s definitely a mixed blessing/curse.

  6. Hilariously made good point, Jack! I never knew that about the word bookkeeping. And by ** I think you are judging yourself which might even be harsher than judging others. So here’s to not judging and instead being curious about everyone, including ourselves.

  7. Great post Jack. Judgement is a necessary evil in many ways. We know ourselves best so we ought to judge ourselves more critically. We know whether we are falling short or doing our best. But we don’t know what others are going/have been through – so we should be more careful, less quick to judge them.

    “A great man is hard on himself; a small man is hard on others.” — Confucius

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