Recently I find myself wondering about the difference between judgment and observation. Can the two be separated? It is something that I find myself considering both in terms of how I behave and how I respond when someone comments on my personal behavior.
I have a friend who begins many statements with “I’m just making an observation. There is no judgment involved.” Most of the time I feel this to be quite true, however, occasionally it seems to cross over into the judgment category particularly when she declares “I just don’t understand why you do that” without following it up with curiosity as to what might be my motivation. Isn’t that where we often get ourselves into trouble and move toward being judgmental – when we don’t understand the motivations of another and do not bother to even be curious about them?
This morning I watched a woman give another person the finger while driving and I thought to myself, “How rude!” Judgment or observation? The gesture, I believe, was indeed rude. The woman? I have no idea what was her motivation, therefore, I could not judge her character. Perhaps that is the difference, when we make a character assessment rather than an observation about behavior.
I have found myself recently (& not so recently) quite disturbed as I have heard people bash George W. Bush not just for his policies but for his “thin lips, smug smile, big ears…whatever.” While I am not a fan of GWB, I still recognize him as a person and not an Other. Why do we feel the need to make people “less than”? Do we need to assassinate their humanity? Are we not all – uh – human?
One last incident which really bugged me today was when I received a very sad announcement that a sorority sister’s child had recently died of a drug overdose. It is heartbreaking and I wept tears for this child and family I have never even met. The letter gave a few details of the death and in it this young woman was compared to her two siblings who had “always been happy, model children and a joy to their parents.” It left me wondering, had the deceased daughter NOT been a “model” child and “joy” to her parents? Again, I wonder – observation or judgment?
The part of the e-mail, however, that really irked me was when we were asked to pray for the family and also the deceased “if our faith allows.” IF OUR FAITH ALLOWS?!?!? So, here I am going to make a judgment. What kind of “faith” would not allow a person to pray for a tortured young woman’s soul? Yikes! What else can be said? I will proudly stand up for my judgment that leaving anyone out of God’s grace is wrong! (And it takes an awful lot to push me to use the terms "right and wrong"!)
So, what do you think? Is there a difference between judgment and observation? Do you hide your judgments behind words of observation? Or can one be distinguished from the other? I’d love to know what you think and I promise not to judge your response even if my observation is different ☺.