The Psychology of Judgmentalism

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In Ethics this spring, we are reading for our opening reflections excerpts from Terry Cooper’s Making Judgments without Being Judgmental: Nurturing a Clear Mind and a Generous Heart. A main purpose of the book is to help the reader understand the difference between judgmentalism and the capacity to make moral judgments. Practically speaking, this might entail retaining the capacity to make sounds moral judgments, which he sees as absolutely necessary, while avoiding being a judgmental person. In Chapter One he discusses some of what he sees as the psychology of being judgmental, insofar as it involves avoiding our own condition:

We may not consciously be aware that tearing down others can inflate ourselves. Yet the underlying message is something like, I wouldn’t think of doing such a thing, or I could never do that or I am shocked and aghast at such behavior. We are usually noting how utterly different we are from these people or how we would simply never sink to their level. Criticizing others is not  just an offensive move against them; it is also a defensive move to protect our own “purity.”When we are judgmental, therefore, we need other people’s faults in order to dodge our own. Stated simply, judgmental thinking is addicted to other people’s faults or destructive behavior. Judgmentalism finds its identity in what it is not. (p. 23)

6 Comments

  1. I know this is for Ethics, but I really love this book! It makes such a powerful case for the true roots of judgementalism. I know it has made me examine my own heart and motives many times. I especially like this quote, because it displays the irony of being judgemental. Those who are judgemental take it upon themselves to point out the flaws in others or put others down. Like the quote suggests, I think they do it out of an attempt to distance themself from the behavior or whatever it is they are judging. In reality it is a defense mechanism to avoid their own faults. I wish as Christians we could come together and recognize that we all have faults. I know we “know” this but we do not always put it into practice. Because we are so afraid of acknowleding and dealing with our own faults, we avoid them and instead project them onto others in the form of judgementalism. We do this as a defense against being judged by others as well, so others won’t see our faults. All of this prevents all of us from focusing on ourselves and on our own issues. It is a never ending cycle. If we could all let our gaurds down and recognize we all have flaws, we could learn to support one another in helping us overcome these struggles. I think when this happens true growth would occur in the church.

  2. I like this book, too. It is such a helpful, easy-to-digest review of the difference between making moral evaluations (judgments) and being a judgmental person. We have gotten ourselves to a place in which it is so important to avoid being judgmental (which we ought to resist, in my view) that we no longer seem capable of making moral evaluations (which we have to retain, in my view). In any case, I agree with you that the psychology is important to understand, and there is a cycle that has to be interrupted, and, when it is, there is hope for refreshing transparency and, ultimately, true community.

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