Why judgement closes doors

I spend a lot of my time in different communities – rich/poor; Muslim/Christian; science/faith; old/young – and so I’m always wondering what makes us all different.   I think a community needs three key things, each of them built upon the previous idea.

  1. A community needs people or members. (That kinda goes without saying really!)
  2. The community members need boundaries or rules, a common set of principles that all members agree upon. This makes it easier to get along in a community: if everyone agrees on certain ideas, then the community has a common ‘framework’ to discuss ideas and agree a plan. Any group that always has to go back to ‘square one’ every time someone new joins is going to take a long time agree anything.
  3. The boundaries need a system of reinforcement (or at least administration), and that normally falls to one person, or a small number of people. So, communities under up with a hierarchy of roles, jobs and responsibilities: i.e. committees and leaders.

I’ve written about boundaries and hierarchies in communities before. But woven into both of these is that double edged sword of judgement.

Judgement seem to be an important part of the boundaries and rules that ‘mark out’ a community, but it seems to me that judgement can work negatively, because when I judge something or someone I place them in a box, but that impacts both them, and me, in negative ways.

Computer analogy.

I’m going to this beauty as an illustration:

The Sinclair ZX81, a hobbyist home computer released in the UK in 1981.
The Sinclair ZX81, a hobbyist home computer released in the UK in 1981. Evan-Amos  CC BY-SA 3.0)

I’m old enough to remember when home computers first started to be sold. I was 12 years old when the Sinclair ZX81 went on sale, and I was jealous of the friends that had one. ZX81s were sold with 1K of memory (yeah, that’s right 1000 bytes!). I can’t believe I was jealous of a 1K computer!) If that’s not a lesson in envy, I don’t know what it. Anyway, because the memory capacity and processing power were so small the graphics were black and white and any games were either text based, blocked based, or very low resolution. (3D Monster Maze had a refresh rate of 6 frames per second!) In writing programs for the ZX81 shortcuts were taken and approximates were made: we got a game out of it, but it wasn’t any where near real life.

It seems to me that judgement takes us back to our 1K computers. We classify something or someone as good or bad, rich or poor, right or wrong, redeemed or condemned, innocent or guilty, left or right and we save on memory space and processing speed. But it’s not real life!

You can’t see through the walls of the box

To me it seems like judgement impairs our own ability to see: the walls of the boxes we put people into block our own communication, understanding, empathy and transparency. The key emotions, or perhaps that should be psychological states, that allow us to learn and develop are openness, compassion, inquisitiveness and enquiry.  (Did you ever wonder why you didn’t learn anything while in the class of the teacher you didn’t like!) Judging someone, or a group, shuts down those learning emotions, and you lose what you could have gained. It makes it both easier to deal with, and a even greater tragedy, that you don’t even know what you lost.

You judge, but you bring down the penalty on yourself.

This changes the way I (and perhaps someone who is agnostic or an atheist) could understand parts of the Bible. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” and if you read the next few verses you’ll see they illustrate the same principle. In the past I’ve seen this as a statement; that how I judge the people around me will be reciprocated (upon me) by God at some point in the future. But, there’s another way to look at this verse: the reciprocity for judgment is immediate, as soon as I judge someone I lose out in the same way. (No need to wait for the future!) My judgement cuts off that person from my life, and the impact that they may have had in my life. I fall into a ‘low RAM’ state which allows me to ‘stumble on’ with poor, binary, low resolution thinking and my attitude of judgement cuts off my own ability to learn and grow from someone who is ‘different’.


Postscript (added Oct2019). To see a more applied application of the idea of low and high resolution arguments see episode 4 of Eric Weinstein’s The Portal.


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