My blog friend Robert Shapiro wrote a comment to one of my posts that has left me thinking for some time. I have decided that I believe I know what Robert was saying to me; and if I do not he has nevertheless lead me to a new understanding of an important concept.
Robert was discussing the difference between the power of discernment and the process of judgment and how we might use the difference in the definitions to enrich our interaction with the world. And if I have misunderstood him, I know he will be right here to help me better understand.
We spend a lot of time in our lives judging others. I know I have spent too much valuable time doing so. If you watch any political television or cable news shows you can actually see careers being built on this activity.
But that is really for the politicos and doesn’t enter into our personal relationships; but the central theme of casting judgment certainly does.
The process of judging involves deciding that another person’s conduct, appearance, attitude or belief system is not acceptable. Of course we decide on this ‘acceptability’ based on our own personal beliefs. This is a form of saying to the individual I believe what is acceptable or appropriate for me is the most important thing and I require you to be as perfect and smart as me or suffer my judgment.
The process of discernment involves deciding that what we see in another individuals conduct, appearance, attitude or belief system is for us, or conversely, not for us. If we decide it is not for us then we can just let it go, using the power of discernment in rejecting what does not work for our life without judging the individual at all.
For purposes of simple discussion lets take the case of thin and athletic people casting judgment on the obese. We decide they are fat, lazy overeaters and all they have to do is simply exercise like me. What a pitiful sight these obese people are, and what about their health? Are these people stupid as well as being lazy overeaters?
This is the process of judgment, deciding that the obese are less than us fit folks because they just don’t measure up to our personal fitness standards. Shame on them.
And, being a lifelong athlete, I have had this judgment reversed on me. I have been judged by some obese friends as being a ‘fitness nut’ with a narcissistic complex.
Let’s look at the same process using discernment rather than judgment. Using discernment it is possible to look at the obese and ‘discern’ that this is not the lifestyle for me; then let it go since it is their decision to live in the world in that manner. And, perhaps the obese can discern that my way is not for them and just let it go.
This difference between judgment and discernment is somewhat simple in the telling and articulation. However I think so few of us have stumbled on this concept, and I believe its actual practice is far more rare than the practice of judgment.
Clearly there is a line where behavior becomes criminal and judgment is required by the legal system, but that is another blog and another pattern of thinking for yet another day.
I have been putting this discernment v judgment into action recently and I thank my reader and friend for the education. As my friend Robert might put it; It works quite well does it not?
Now I Get It.......maybe.