On judging judgment

“Brady, my friends are so judgy. It’s hard being around them because they hate on everything. They’re so negative. I love them, but can’t stand them sometimes. I really try to be non-judgmental. Love everyone. You know?”

I don’t.

Usually in conversations about judgment, people’s feelings about being judged, personally judging others, others’ experiences of judgment, and so much more, the definitions of judgment and non-judgment are ill-defined.

On a rudimentary level, I like to think that there are “yes” judgments (like, want more, delight, love, etc.) and “no” judgments (dislike, want less, disgust, hate, etc.). Non-judgments then are simply data points removed of feelings. If we are to look at judgments, and what constitutes judgments, then as much as hate is a judgment, love, too, is a judgment. However, for many people, and more than a handful of good, nice, kind people, judgment is only considered judgment if the judgment is hate.

Why is that?

I think, on a cellular level, we are sensitive to our own feelings and the feelings of others. Sensitive in that we are moved in our feelings and can’t exactly consciously control our ability to feel, though we may consciously drown them out, suppress them, or hide them in shame. And yet we feel. We experience our lives, and others, and our world, and in doing so discover there are things we like and do not like. Then we may come to realize that our feelings aren’t exactly the same as others’ feelings. Ergo conflict.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in liking something or disliking something.
On a relational level, the struggle with feeling our feelings differently than others, is where I see and experience a lot of relational distance. If I love something that you hate, it truly does feel like we, in a relational sense, are worlds apart. Because we are. If I hate something and you hate something in a different way, then, too, it feels disconnected. In the act of judging, in knowing our feelings, we can feel, too, our experience of the world as different from others. We can feel distinct, separate, yet, if others somehow feel the same and therefore judge similarly, then we are united. We make an us vs. them position, which is a really comforting idea. It can mean, we think, we aren’t exactly alone.

With this, then, on an existential level we can not want to feel alone with everyone, and this comes out as a want for everyone to feel things as we feel them; we aren’t alone if others feel the same way. But they can’t, even if we expect them too.

Others can’t exactly feel what we are feeling, feel love like we feel love, or feel hate like we feel hate. Unfortunately, we can earnestly think this is how it should be.

In love, we can want the person that we love to feel the same way about us as we feel about them; we want to feel the same. In hate, we can also want other people to feel the same about what is being hated, and in doing so use others disliking to validate our own; we want to feel the same.

As much as hate is a judgment, love, too, is a judgment.
But to feel our own feelings, and to feel them as our own and not others, we run the risk of also feeling our separateness from others; of no one else feeling the exact same way. To avoid this, we can play cloyingly earnest mind games with ourselves, wherein we disguise our vulnerable feelings of love and hate. We can say we don’t hate a person, we don’t like their behavior; still a no, so still feeling hate. We can say we aren’t in love, we are simply really excited to see someone; still a yes, so still feeling love. We can say that we don’t hate anyone, but simply not support what goes against our sincerely held beliefs; still an oppositional stance, so still hate. We can say we only have a crush on someone else and that it isn’t love, because we don’t want to run the risk of feeling more for someone than they feel for us; still a delightful openness, so still love. In this, we hide our feelings from others, and even from ourselves.

To reiterate before redirecting, there’s nothing inherently wrong in liking something or disliking something. Not at all. But knowing and feeling our own feelings does separate us. We don’t exactly judge in the exact same way. This, too, leads to conflict. How does this conflict translate on a more therapeutic perspective? I think the more comfortable we are fully feeling our own feelings doesn’t always translate to allowing other people to fully feel their feelings. These are two very close yet distinct skills. There’s judging. There’s also judging judging.

If, and I don’t think I’m writing with too much assumption on the side, that judgment is equated with condemnation, contempt, or simply hate, then hating hate becomes its own judging judging conflict.

Hate needn’t be hated. Unless, of course, a person prescribes to the tidy idea that only bad, evil, hateful people feel hatred. In other words, good people are good and feel love, and bad people are bad and feel hate. Am I painting in broad strokes, and more than a little condescending, when I write that? Yes, but I’m not nearly as condescending as the fragile idea itself.

So no. Haters aren’t going to simply hate. A person can hate and love many things, and having one judgment doesn’t fully define a person as who they are. It is a start, but it is only a start if the judgment is more fully explored, deepened, reexamined, and judged further. Our judgments can only change through examination, and having an understanding of our own feelings to begin with.

Going even deeper, if we are fully committed to only loving what we love and only hating what we hate, we narrow our judgments and further isolate ourselves. The ability to see what others love, to see how it is lovable, to see how others hate, to see what’s important for them in their hatred, is to judge more. I love those judgments.

Hate needn’t be hated. Unless, of course, a person prescribes to the tidy idea that only bad, evil, hateful people feel hatred.
What I find remarkably curious are the people that cannot accept their own judgments; those that cannot embrace what they love or acknowledge standing up for what they hate. Owning and expressing what you love and what you hate, both, equally, are vulnerable positions. To know what a person loves, and how they feel and express that love is a beautiful and stark window into their personhood. To know what a person hates, and how they feel and express that hate is also a beautiful and stark window into their personhood. Knowing what someone loves or hates, then, makes them more known, and therein lies the possibility of that person being more fully judged.

Personally, and professionally, I think of love as a deeply felt sense of yes, and also as a soft yes. I also think of hate as a deeply felt sense of no, but also as a polite no. Being able to own, embrace, feel, and vocalize what you like and what you do not like is incredibly difficult on an intrapersonal level of knowing, but also on an interpersonal level. When others know more about what you like and dislike, they know you more fully. They can also judge you on deeper parts of yourself when they know what exactly you feel.

You not letting others know what you feel, well, keeps them from judging you and either hating or loving you.

You not letting yourself know what you feel, also, keeps you from judging yourself. Doing so then prevents you from loving yourself.

What judgments do I hate? Incomplete ones.

If someone loves something or someone, and doesn’t discern what they love or how they love, it sounds more like an idea of a judgment than a judgment itself. It seems hollow. It’s an I-like-it-because-I-like-it  judgment that doesn’t seem to start anywhere. The same is true about hate and a person being unable to articulate what they hate or how that hate feels. What I hate about these incredibly incomplete judgments is how much is relationally lost; how much more of a person I could know, could get closer to, could understand, if they were to judge.

If other people having strong feelings of hate, or love, is upsetting to you, then feel that hatred. Allow yourself, above all else, to fully feel your feelings and, after allowing yourself to fully feel them, allow others the same opportunity. If they cannot own their feelings of love or hate, you can hate them for their cowardice and their desire to not know their own heart. If they cannot own their feelings, you can also find yourself loving them and respecting how difficult and scary it is to know one’s self.


About the Author


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I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice down in the greater Long Beach, CA, area. I've been in the mental health field, formally, since 2005, and I consider it a deep and rewarding honor to see other people grow and live the lives that they want. If I'm not sitting on a couch with a cup of tea in hand, I'm probably on my bicycle, or lost in my own thoughts on the beach; meditating, tweeting, blogging, and talking into a video camera are also known to happen.


BradyOn judging judgment

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