Judgment or Discernment?

I’m hate to admit this, but I have always been harshly judgmental.  I was raised that way and had this skill finely honed through a career in college admissions (did you know that judgment is an occupational hazard of admissions?).  Mostly I was unconscious about its toxicity.  But in all honesty, it did serve me by keeping others who might hurt me at bay.  Ah, judgment is such a great defense…

Judgment seemed to be my friend and ally until I fell and was exposed publically to the judgment of others.  As you can imagine, it doesn’t feel good to have strangers judge you.  It feels so unfair.  Ah, karma…

Once I experienced the destructive power of judgment, I made a promise to change and I have.

I’m careful now to hold my tongue when I want to put others down.  I recognize that what I want to judge in others is what I hate in myself.

Discernment, however, is important.  It’s often mistaken for judgment but they are very different.  Judgment is mean and wants to lash out.  Discernment is seeing what you see with no story attached.  Judgment creates a one-upsmanship (“I would NEVER do such a thing because I’m a better person.”)  Discernment is an awareness of what is and offers the opportunity to make another decision.

So now we have the Paula Deen situation.  Judgment makes us want to lash out at her for being bad, wants us to write mean things about her and cancel all of her business contracts to punish her for things she said and did in her past.  Judgment spins a bigger story here (she’s Southern, she was a closet diabetic even as she was cooking up food to clog our arteries, she’s greedy, she’s evil, blahblahblah) and wants to see her humiliated.  Discernment watches with no opinion, knows Paula Deen is mortal like the rest of us and that all humans are imperfect.  We’ve all said and done things that society would not approve of.  Discernment knows that ‘imperfect’ does not mean ‘bad’.  Discernment offers compassion to Paula even as it reviews and maybe resets our inner compass around our own behavior.

College admissions provokes a lot of judgment.

Parents often judge their children for not being smart enough or ambitious enough or conscientious enough etc etc as they begin to compare their children to college admissions standards.  One parent I know literally burst into tears when she heard her daughter’s SAT scores, crying “I thought you were smart.”  As you can imagine, this didn’t help her daughter at all.  The daughter felt shame for “letting my Mom down and making her cry.”   I wanted to hunt her mother down and give her a good slap but that wouldn’t help her mother at all.

I appeal to parents now.  Drop the judgment and switch to discernment.  Discernment carries no story.  It sees what is.  If your child’s scores don’t fit a certain college’s profile, look for a college where they will fit instead of blaming your child.  SATs tell us nothing of value.  Truth.  If your child’s rank isn’t as high as you’d wished or if they didn’t end the year well, attend to the cause with no story attached.  It is what it is.  Judgment will choke off any encouragement for them to do their best.  Judgment is the death of confidence and confidence is the single most important attribute your child needs to go into the world every day.

Discernment is your real friend and ally.  Time to get to know it well.