On saving the judgement for later

Should you judge others?

Surely you have heard the expression: “you know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me.” This advice was normally followed by some authority figure making a wise comment such as: “never assume.”

I have always struggled with this type of guidance. Like I get it—I get that it is CLEVER and not meant to be taken extremely literally. But I have never gotten the trend of saying that WE DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER. NEVER ASSUME. NEVER JUDGE OTHERS. This is the modern western way. They apply this to many contexts: never assume others’ stories, never assume others’ interests, never assume others’ identities. This is what is taught in schools. Is this the right advice?

I wrestle with the tension between JUDGEMENT and GOING WITH THE FLOW. These are not strictly opposites. You can judge the world around you WHILE letting go, but often times, depending upon the environment you are in, you kind of have to choose one direction to lean into.

And sometimes—you HAVE TO MAKE JUDGEMENTS. In a more primitive context, judgement may be core to survival (even in modern society making the wrong judgements—ending up in the wrong alley—may be the end of your survival).

This may be controversial to say—I mean surely it is at least in some circles—but I do not believe it is possible for humans to exist WITHOUT making ANY judgements. I would go as far as to say that it is HUMAN NATURE to make inferences about the world around them. I can sit here, like I imagine many others do, and _pretend_ I do not make assumptions about other people. But who would I really be lying to? The answer starts with myself. I can sit here on a high horse and pretend like I am NEVER MAKING ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ANYTHING THAT I INTERACT WITH but I just do not find that to be reality.

Now do not get me wrong—I am humbled all of the time as my judgements are OFTEN WRONG ABOUT THE WORLD. It turns out, especially in the interpersonal dynamic, that it is so incredibly difficult to understand another human (what you think would be a rather simple exercise, we are the same species after all, is so nuanced and difficult). But that does not mean I have the ability to avoid making any judgements.

Judgements are essential to survival. How do you get food? How do you get shelter? How do you stay safe? The are thousands—millions—of decisions you have made in your lifetime (consciously or sub-consciously) and each one is likely the product of some form of judgement. To say that they are all stupid to make, well that is not a productive comment.

Now, to pause for a moment, the above statements are not to say I am in favor of confusing OPINIONS with FACTS. This, I believe to be extremely dangerous (and extremely common, especially among supposedly ~smart people, many of which ascertain their ranking in the smartness leaderboard via a mode of peer review that really was a function of smartness MULTIPLIED BY politics, where politics include a number of ANTI-MERITOCRATIC, such as bureaucracy, favoritism, and tribalism).

What happens when many people judge, is they conflate their opinions with reality, and then communicate their opinions as facts. This is extremely dangerous behavior. When I say dangerous, I do mean dangerous. I think social movements are started this way (e.g. fake news, and fake news about fake news). Arguments at work and personally often start this way. In my head, I sometimes think of this as lying. Lying is also universally known to be bad, largely because it includes the idea that you are INTENTIONALLY MISLEADING. But, perhaps for another longer essay, is not always bad and actually happens all the time (in the form of social manipulation). But again, the topic of lying is one for another essay.

So back to judgements. Judgements, to me, are bad in so far as you lose your ability to DOUBT. Because they are your own OPINIONS, somewhere tied to your ego, you sometimes throw out the idea that they could be wrong. You throw out your doubt. Doubt is an extremely powerful tool in that it can help you get closer to truth. But also recognizing that TRUTH—yes the holy truth—is an impermanent idea. Truths change all the time, just as our ability to observe and understand the truth changes. (Even laws of physics change and become refined over time, again for another essay but read Feynman and also The Extension of Man). Doubt is not the opposite of confidence. I used to think it was. But realizing that you can be extremely confident BUT STILL LEAVE SPACE FOR DOUBT was a big aha moment for me.

So if you judge the world around you, and still leave space for ample doubt, what is wrong with that?

The biggest blocker I run into is sometimes your judgements still get in the way of experiencing reality. The judgement part of your lens gets so BIG AND BLOCKY that you are actually obstructed from experiencing THE MOMENT. Your curiosity falls sharply to the background and all you can see forward is REALITY INTERTWINED WITH YOUR JUDGEMENT.

THIS IS HARD TO ESCAPE FROM. Your judgement is eager to make its way out. It often bleeds to the extent that you start VERBALIZING YOUR JUDGEMENT. You may do this with body language but often you start SPEAKING YOUR MIND before your brain has actually fully processed the information (read: latency). So yes, you have a quick judgement that comes to fruition but in reality the data you are looking at is so LIMITED and SKEWED that your judgement is NOT IN PURSUIT OF TRUTH AND DOUBT HAS LEFT THE BUILDING.

Well this would void our principle of judgement—in that we MUST ALWAYS LEAVE ROOM FOR DOUBT. So the thing I am working on, and yes I am intentionally aware of this and trying to exercise this in various interactions, is SAVING MY JUDGEMENT FOR LATER.

The advice is not to NOT JUDGE OR NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Rather, it is to save the judgement for later and EXPERIENCE PRESENCE, in the moment, such that I am experiencing reality FULL ON rather than obfuscated by my sense of judgement.

This allows me to be curious in the moment, truly curious, and then I make a promise (with myself) that I will process the information later AND then respond. By the way, a cool feature of this is that you actually do not always need to respond. You can just sit with the information. You can even discard it. It turns out that not everyone in the world needs to know your opinion about everything.

I have a friend—and yes I would like to turn this into another essay one day—who will tell stories to people that are totally made up and lies. They are harmless stories. For instance, he would make up his life story or he would use a fake voice around people. It is a bit weird, yes, but certainly harmless. He would tell these stories to complete strangers. And they would be hysterical. I would always ask him—what about the punch line? When are you going to tell them that that was made up. He said: never. Why would I? The other group has a funny story, they do not need to know the punch line.

I sat with that for a while. I immediately—egocentrically—began to think of myself. Could I do that? I feel the urge to want to have the punch line. To want to feel understood. To want to tell the complete truth. But no, he sits with it, and lets them win.

This is not an argument that is PRO LYING. Though, again, we should re-inspect lying and its place in society. But it is an argument for patience (a topic I have spent a lot of energy really understanding, for myself).

Patience may be the key to life, and particularly the key to judgement. If you can be patient enough to say, hey, for this moment, I am going to EXPERIENCE LIFE FULLY, IN 4D!, and save my judgement for the last 30 minutes of my day or for when I am on a walk alone or when I am writing or when I GET TO IT.

Can you do this? This is really hard for me to do.

So often I find myself, again, wanting to vocalize MY OPINION. Wanting to tell the story. The joke. The idea.

But for what?

Why not let go of that URGE.

What desire is that urge satisfying? Why does it even matter? These are questions I ask myself as I often know that satisfying the urge is really a SHORT TERM BANDAID—A COVER UP FOR SOME INTERNAL DESIRE THAT I WANT TO FEEL UNDERSTOOD OR ACCEPTED OR INCLUDED. Writing that in english is a piece of untangling the core emotion, such that hiccups do not pop up in places I do not necessarily want them to. A big piece of this, again, another essay emerges!, is the notion of control. Judgement is often a part of a desire to control a situation and control the world around you. Is this unhealthy? It is not clearly unhealthy. Perhaps the Way of Zen would teach you to LET GO in some ways (as a way to actually gain control of your Zen).

Judgement is a way for you to tell a story to yourself. I often find myself looking for stories. Things I can repeat to myself in the shower. This is how the world works. This is my priority. This is what is important to me. This is what I care about. I am so often looking for that story—something I can think about right before bed. And sometimes, that story does not make sense or is incompatible with my values. To be very transparent, I am very afraid of that setting. I get nervous when that happens, especially when the story says that I or that people I admire/trust have violated core pieces of my story. That is when I am not exactly sure how to think or what to do. The fear of that outcome can be extremely powerful for me—so powerful that I defensively respond in situations and LET MY URGE OUT AND LET MY JUDGEMENT OUT extremely quickly. I interrupt. I tell people what i think. I make my opinion known because I am defensive over my ~rigid values (that are artificial in nature but in my head are rather TRUE—noting the spectrum of true is also subjective).

So this urge…this is the thing to really tame. The advice is not to not make judgements. You can make judgements. Whew. But the advice is to save that for later. Because if you are even thinking about judgements up front, if you are even for a second reacting in the moment, you are NO MATTER WHAT GOING TO BE CLOUDING AND/OR TWISTING YOUR VISION IN SOME CAPACITY. You have to see that, and it’s hard to see, especially for people with short latency, that you will be skewing reality.

And who wants to do that? We all—right—want to be in the pursuit of truth. I at least say I want to.

So why am I getting in the way?

Why am I blaming this URGE TO VERBALIZE MY THOUGHTS for interrupting reality.

That urge is not a law of physics (even laws of physics, as we know, are not necessarily permanent artifacts of history). THAT URGE IS CONTROLLABLE.

I have the response-ability, and controlling that urge such that I can save the judgement for later—that can be a superpower.

So that is what I am focused on now. Saving the judgement for later. Experiencing the moment. Leaning towards presence. Easier said than done :).


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