by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
There’s a difference between judging and being judgmental.
Life in this world is such that there are times that we need to judge things, and we need to make sure that we judge them correctly. And there are times that we should not judge things, but instead be quiet and still our minds.
But we can judge ourselves. It is useful for us to have judgments about the things that we do as we go through life. This is particularly true in terms of things that we do on a daily basis that are in the realm of self-help and mental and physical wellness. And of course a crucial judgment that we have to make is what our purpose in life is. Determining that will require research, interactions with friends, teachers, and leaders, and a variety of other measures.
I don’t think it’s useful for a person to make a decision to get on their path and say something like “There’s no purpose for this walk. I’m going to go outside, pick a direction, and just walk.” It is useful, though, to say something the following and then go out and do it: “I’m going on a walk. I will go in a certain direction for a certain amount of time. The walk will serve a purpose because it will be good exercise, and I’ll enjoy it because I like to hear the birds sing. I will clear my head, make a phone call, or meditate during my walk. If I run into people along the way then I’ll have conversations with them.”
There’s nothing wrong with making these types of judgments. Such judgments benefit you—they’re good for your health and well-being. Similarly, it’s good to judge that drinking clean water is better than drinking dirty water. It’s good to judge that we would rather breathe fresh air than polluted air. It’s good to judge that it’s better to eat nutritious foods that strengthen and help the body to perform its functions rather than to eat junk food that endangers your health.
It’s good to judge that we would rather feel love and compassion than feel hatred, envy, disdain, apathy, and anger. If we don’t judge this and we just let whatever happens happen without striving to change things, then we will feel pain and discomfort.
The paradox of many philosophical systems is their emphasis that one shouldn’t judge when the end of suffering is at the heart of their philosophy. In order to establish that there’s an end to suffering one must judge the difference between suffering and non-suffering.
That begs a question: At what point does my judgment of things become unhelpful? It’s not helpful when we judge things incorrectly. For example, if I judge that experiencing pain and harm to my body is good then that judgment will have consequences for me. It will cost me flesh and blood. It may cost me death. So that would not be a good judgment.
To judge that life is not a good thing is a bad judgment as well. If a person is born, that person’s purpose is to live. And nature was originally designed such that its creatures should not have to suffer. Humans and other creatures were created as being able to handle a degree of suffering, process it, and recover. Of course there comes a point at which recovery is no longer possible, but our biology, body chemistry, and emotional processes were designed to heal mental and physical damage.
To get the great benefits that meditation can give you, judge in your mind that meditation is a good thing that’s worth your while to pursue wholeheartedly. And when you begin to experience its benefits, judge those benefits as being very helpful and life-affirming.