I’m busy with a research proposal that deals extensively with values and ethics. I’ve also been in discussions recently that involved aspects of having to employ one’s judgement. Which got me thinking about the difference between judgement, and being judgemental.
All of us have a unique perspective on what is right and wrong, although there is of course extensive overlap, with many sharing certain beliefs and values. When I act in accordance with those values (and I do not assume that the values are necessarily positive ones), I am exercising my judgement. When I point the finger at those whose values differ from my own, I am sitting in judgement.
But where is the fine line of ‘good people’ doing nothing and evil therefore flourishing? When must I act against someone whose values lead them to do something that I regard as “wrong”? If I proselytise, promoting my value system, is that “sitting in judgement” of the other? Perhaps exercising judgement comes into play in how I choose to share my judgement. Leading by example is I think the most powerful way of exercising my judgement. But is it enough? I do believe that individuals and society have the right to protect themselves against harm. I do however suspect there’s lots of conversations to be had about why, how, when and towards whom we either exercise or sit in judgement. Particularly the how. If my “how” hurts another, degrades or diminishes them, I suspect that that entails a simultaneous “sitting in”, while I “exercise my” judgement. I also suspect that this approach is used to justify many-a (perhaps) well-intentioned but nonetheless derogatory barb.
What an intricate dance we dance, in choosing whether to sit and laugh at those who haven’t found the chair, or to lead the conga-line through the chairs, inviting more to join the party.