Growing up, we never had a vehicle, but lived in a large enough city that a transit system was readily available. From about the age of eight, I rode the bus independently, sometimes at night, and into my slightly unsavory neighborhood. My safe arrival home took strategic planning. It began with a scan of the bus to discern the likelihood of being followed by a fellow passenger. Within a block of my stop, I would scour the street, and the empty parking lot near my building. It was always a relief to give myself an internal ‘all clear’. As I took my first step off the bus, I would make the most important judgment of all: do I run or can I walk?
To construct a judgment regarding a situation, group, or individual has been a survival mechanism since the dawn of time. Judgment requires using a combination of knowledge, sensory skills, and cognitive dexterity. It's not necessarily a bad thing.
However, being judgmental is not necessary for the continuation of our species. In fact, being judgmental is counter-intuitive to action, and tolerance. But being non-judgmental is difficult; it's work and we slip and err and there can be a heck of a lot of hypocrisy involved.
For instance, waiting in line at Starbuck's can turn an ostensibly non-judgmental individual into Regan (think, The Exorcist, 1973) when the man in a business suit ahead, busy on his phone, doesn't move forward as quickly as one would like. Thus begins the (hopefully soundless) degradation of the man as a human being, which includes terms such as ‘self-centered’, ‘born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth’, ‘one-percenter’.
As well, judgmentalism can come in more, seemingly inconsequential forms: nuances in tone, microaggressions, facial expressions. Light conversations may quickly heed some internal, injudicious decisions about another: he's too right, too left, too academic, too redneck, too liberal, not liberal enough, too conservative, too non-conformist.
Of course, the path to non-judgmentalism is not easy and is often fraught with obstacles; our own fears and ego can limit our journey even if we believe ourselves to be open and progressive. Minds tend to anchor and hold fast to constructs which have developed over time and appear secure when in fact these conceptions may be holding us back from a release of judgmental heuristics (the mental shortcuts that help us to make sense of the world).
There is no doubt that the movement toward non-judgmentalism is an odyssey that requires marathon-like endurance for a concept that has no finish line. Non-judgmentalism has also been mocked as the Western soliloquy, and I get it. But despite the effort, the failure, and the possible perception of pretense, I'm happy to be continually asking myself if I am making a kind, safe, and humane judgment. Through judgment, I am able to acknowledge that I am both a settler and survivor.
I also keep close an anonymous quote, which states, "I am grateful that I am not as judgmental as all those censorious, self-righteous people around me.”