Finding the Balance

     “Don’t judge” is a phrase we hear a lot at Westminster. And it makes sense that it’s emphasized so much. People have the tendency to criticize others too easily, and we don’t want to appear hypocritical by condemning others when we struggle with the same problems. However, there are times when judging is useful and necessary.

     When people say “don’t judge others,” I usually hear them follow it up with “we have no right to judge since we all mess up.” I agree with this statement to an extent. We shouldn’t be going around picking at others’ mistakes if we have greater issues to deal with ourselves. No one appreciates a self-righteous hypocrite.

     But discerning what’s right and wrong to help someone stay away from harmful actions is different from condemning. We have the tendency to be so afraid of appearing judgmental that we err on the side of condoning wrong behavior. However, it’s absolutely necessary to be able to make objective evaluations of people’s actions.

     When we see students failing to follow the instructions for an assignment, we wouldn’t walk up to them and call them stupid. If anything, we would keep a mental note to ourselves not to make the same mistake and if it’s not too late, we would inform them so they can fix the problem and avoid negative consequences.

     The same attitude applies to larger problems in people’s lives. When we see people acting in ways that we consider “morally wrong,” we should try to help them avoid that behavior or at least be able to determine how damaging that behavior is. Developing critical thinking skills and being able to make smart choices is a step towards becoming a more mature person. It’s when we look down on others for struggling with certain issues that we become condemning and hypocritical.

     Of course, in a society that constantly criticizes people for being intolerant, it’s tempting to stay passive and complacent to avoid offending someone. It’s not necessary to point out every single mistake people make and there are times when it’s best to remain silent. But we should at least train ourselves to be aware of them and to find the balance between the two extremes of condemning and condoning when we do speak up.