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Insights About Judgment

by Robert G. Waldvogel


Judging is something everyone, I am sure, can be found guilty of and this may apply, to an even greater extent, to those who were influenced by parental dysfunction because they were the recipients of it, prompting them—sometimes automatically--to judge others and even themselves.

Defined as the assessment of and its resultant conclusions about another, judging is both inaccurate and relative, since any assessments must be measured against some standard for their value and worth. That standard is usually determined by the judge himself, who is not and cannot be in a perfect state, leading to inaccuracies and, if shared with the one who is judged, anger, resentment, and reciprocal assessment.

“Every snowflake is different,” according to Al-Anon’s Courage to Change text (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992, p. 44). “Every thumbprint is different. Every person in Al-Anon is different, despite the common problem that brings us together.”

Connected by a Higher Power of a person’s understanding after recitation of the serenity prayer, those who attend Al-Anon and other twelve-step meetings are all under the same umbrella of care and guidance, reducing everyone to equality. No one is greater or lesser-than during these times. Cross-talk and judgment are avoided and serve no purpose.

Although there is commonality in the origin of everyone’s powerful plight, the circumstances can vary and the severity with which they affect the person is equally not universal—nor is the interval of processing and healing needed to emerge from it.

Even when these circumstances outwardly appear similar to a person’s own, inwardly they can exert a greater impact on someone else, leaving judgment of them worthless. The healing can only be in his Higher Power’s hands.

The world at large is characterized by inequalities. Some hold high stations in life, earning university degrees, attaining high levels of influence in companies and organizations, and amassing great wealth. Others hardly have a crumb to eat and some have never even slept in a bed. Some are outwardly “rich” because of their earthy-measured successes, but inwardly poor because they lack humility, compassion, empathy, and love, and have thus replaced the genuine self with the false ego. Everyone was created for a different purpose and no two lives are the same. Why, then, would a comparison—and hence judgment—between them serve any purpose other than to prove this fact by their differences?

There can be several reasons behind the fruitless need to judge others.

Those, first and foremost, who endured controlling upbringings have little experience with person-to-person equality. They were either cowed and powerless as a child in the face of a rageful parent or can assume a similar adult role, reducing others to this low level by assuming dominant control and subconsciously feeling safe because of it.

“I used to live my life as if I were on a ladder,” Courage to Change continues (ibid, p. 33). “Everyone was either above me—to be feared and envied—or below me—to be pitied…That was a hard, lonely way to live, because no two people can stand comfortably on the same rung for very long.”

Another need to judge results from seeing an aspect in another that a person cannot or does not wish to see in himself, sparking resentful comments and comparisons.

Finally, judgment can serve as the response and retaliation for self-pain.

There are also several conclusions that can be made about this action.

It is easy—and inaccurate—to view another from the outside, thinking that the judge knows what occurs within him, and whatever he himself would feel in a similar situation may significantly vary from what the other does and how he deals with it.

No one should attempt a judgment until and unless he walks in the other person’s shoes, which, in itself, is impossible. But, since they may have different foundations, tools, strengths, abilities, and coping mechanisms, no one truly can.

Finally, faith-based people are taught to refrain from any judgment at all, because they will only be measured by the measurement they apply—that is, judged themselves in return.

Robert G. Waldvogel has earned the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Behavioral Health for Late Adolescence and the Emerging Adult and a Postgraduate Certificate in the Fundamentals of Cognitive Behavioral Treatment at Adelphi University’s School of Social Work. He has led Twelve-Step support groups on Long Island for the past decade, and created the Adult Child Recovery-through-Writing, and the Strengthening Our Spirituality Programs taught at the Thrive Recovery Community and Outreach Center in Westbury. He is a frequent contributor to Wisdom Magazine.


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