“Judgmental” a Loaded Word: Is It Ever Okay to Judge?

Is it ever okay to judge or be judgmental? It better be, considering that the above indicates we do it all the time. Luckily, we’re also pretty darn good at it. At least a certain kind of it.

It’s really all so confusing, these judge-ing words. We hear Don’t judge or be judgmental, but we also hear Practice good judgment, which just doesn’t compute—they’re different things, but they don’t sound different. For the sake of semantic clarity, some would suggest replacing judgment in the latter context with discernment—yeah, that’ll never happen.

It’s hard to shake the idea that being judgmental is plain wrong. Admit it, if you’ve ever taken the Keirsey Temperament Sorter or Myers-Briggs test, for instance, and have learned you’re a J for judging (versus a P for perceiving), didn’t you feel at least a little ashamed of yourself—even though, as explained by the Myers & Briggs Foundation, in this parlance judging just means you “prefer a more structured and decided lifestyle?”

Then there’s the sting of a displeased someone calling you out on being judgy (to use today’s popular term). These two humorists know what I’m talking about:

Kumail Nanjiani : Firstly, no I am not. Secondly, the word is not ˝judgy˝ it’s ˝judgmental.˝ 

Dylan Brody: Tell you what. I’ll stop being judgmental when everyone else stops being so obviously flawed. 

See what they’ve each done there? They’re judging the judgers—an easy reversal one can employ when feeling in a similarly judged jam.

Kyle Lippert: Remember, the best way to fight against judgmental people is to be judgmental towards those judgmental people.

Jake Weisman has found another way to counterattack—accusations of judgmentalism in order to escape responsibility:

As long as you say ˝stop being so judgmental˝ whenever confronted by someone, you can pretty much get away with being a terrible person. 

Anytime someone points out something you did wrong just be like ˝stop being so judgmental˝ and everyone will pretty much be on your side. 

Lest you think you can always get away with this, though, remember that judges actually have the authority to be judgmental.

Sara Schaefer: Thinking about committing a crime so my dream of telling a judge ˝don’t be so judgy!” can come true.

Actually, maybe everyone but therapists should be allowed to be judgy. This allows, of course, for clients to be.

H. Alan Scott: My therapist thinks I’m too judgmental. I don’t know what she’s talking about. At least I’m not the one wearing leopard print tights.

The fact, though, is that even therapists have judgments, or opinions, about things. If I tell you it’s healthier to commit to physical exercise than to lie in bed all day, that’s a judgment. And there are many more where that came from.

A judgmental attitude is another thing altogether—it’s all about the delivery. As Gregg Henriques, PhD, points out in a Psychology Today post, the bad meaning of the word “has to do with being overly critical in an unhelpful way.”

Upon careful thought, in fact, he’s drawn a more detailed and specific conclusion: “(S)omeone is being judgmental in that way when their judgments are power-driven, unempathetic, based on their own idiosyncratic values or tastes, overly based on other people’s character, and are closed, shallow, and pessimistic, and ultimately have the consequence of making the other person feel problematically diminished.”

So, how about we just use our best judgment to avoid doing all that undesirable judgy stuff Henriques is talking about? If you think that’s too much to ask…well, stop judging me!

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