Standing in Judgment

One of my new year's resolutions was to be less judgmental.Gavel_judge_justice_266806_l

Every single member of my family laughed hysterically when they heard this idea.  I was deeply offended by their presumption that I could never be less judgmental, even though my sister and I have raised judging others to an art form.

So I've been seriously thinking about being judgmental.  Yesterday I wrote a post about finding and sharing faults about yourself in order to be a more sympathetic narrator.  The first fault I listed was being way too judgmental.

And yet, my family is right–I see being judgmental as an innate part of who I am, and rebel against any efforts to change that, new year's resolutions to the contrary.  Because being judgmental seems like part and parcel of being a writer.  I mean, c'mon, if I make my living being judgmental how can I cure myself of it?

Are Writers Judgmental?

So, help me out here.  Do you think writers are judgmental?  Isn't it part of what we do every time we put words on paper?  Think about it.  We choose one word over another, judging that it will suit the piece better.  We create a character, and decide which details will bring her to life.  We judge that one line of dialogue will be better than another, that this description works well and the other doesn't….writing is one long string of judgments. 

In order to back this considered behavioral justification opinion up, I consulted the dictionary. Here's the MacBookPro dictionary definition of judgment:

  • the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions
  •  an opinion or conclusion

I rest my case! I am all about "considered decisions," and "sensible conclusions!"  Yes, that is me, the considered, sane, and judgmental writer.

So why does being judgmental make me feel bad?

The Writer Confesses

Being judgmental makes me feel bad because judging someone else separates me from them.  Because there's an automatic ego thing going on–in my judgment I'm either thinking that I am better than them or they are better than me.  And in that judgment there's a removal from the present moment.  I'm trying my best to learn that all we really have is the present moment, and in this learning I see how many things take us away from it.  Because judgment is really just another form of fear, and damn it, I don't want to live a life ruled by fear.  Do you?

I happen to have a friend who I deem as being incredibly non-judgmental (you know who you are, Sue).  And she's a damn good writer, too.  So how does she transcend being judgmental and still manage to be a good writer?  I think it is because she replaces judgment with curiosity.   While I might hear of someone starting a new endeavor and think dark, jealous thoughts about how I should have had that idea and furthermore if I had had that idea I'd make a million from it, not the one paltry penny that they will make.  But Sue would hear about the new endeavor and just ask a million questions because she was just curious and interested.

Even writing about the difference in approaches I can feel the different energy they evoke.  Sigh.  So I guess this means I'm going to have to stick with my resolution to be less judgmental and just buck up and realize that it in no way means I am going to be less of a writer.  Because I will replace judgment with curiosity.  I will be sane, considered, and curious.

But I reserve the right to hold onto the other faults on my list.  Rebelling against authority now being number one.  Anybody for a writer's riot?

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I think when writers blog, it sounds judgmental when really we are just making observations. But then again, aren’t the most interesting blogs the ones where writers freely share their judgments?


Isn’t it about the ambiguity of ‘judgmental’, same as ‘critical’ – exercising your judgment is one thing but putting people down is another: the difference between constructive and destructive criticism, perhaps? Oscar Wilde (i think it was) said something about all art being amoral and that’s what you’re saying about curiosity, if i understand you. I don’t suppose anyone is good at balancing between being too xyz and being too little xyz, whatever xyz is. Even if they manage to agree on where the border between ‘too’ and ‘too little’ falls. Certainly i wouldn’t want to be accused of not… Read more »

Charlotte Dixon

Working Writer, yes indeed, those are the most interesting posts. See? It is very hard to get away from being judgmental. Sigh.

mmSeason, You always have good quotes from people, thanks. And yes, good distinction between judgment and criticism.


I judge myself to be a bit of an authority on being judgemental as it is something I become very aware of during zazen each day. I notice how I judge the judge within, berating him, making him so wrong to be so un-centered. What a burden I put on myself! If I judge, then that is what is so. To make myself wrong for doing this is a judgement of a judgement, and to make myself wrong for judging my judgement… well you can see where this is going! In Zen, it is the art of doing nothing. Not… Read more »

Charlotte Dixon

Ah, the judgment of judgment, I hadn’t thought of it that way. So, what you are saying is that judging the judgment just makes it worse? That instead I should just accept it and let it go? Makes good sense, like everything you say, Derek.


Not quite Charlotte..:-) Judgement of the judgement doesn’t make it worse. You may know where I am going with this! To see something as worse or better, is another judgement! Judgement of the judgement is therefore, just judgement of the judgement. In Zen there is no better or worse, just “suchness”. To have better or worse is to stimulate desire. Desire is where all our problems begin when our desires are not met.. Or indeed sometimes, when they are met. I’m a bit concerned about making sense though! That is not vey Zen of me. There goes another judgement! LOL.… Read more »

Charlotte Dixon

Derek, my head is spinning! In a good way…I guess I’m not very good at “suchness.” Is that like “beingness?” As you know, I also have problems with doing away with desire. As a writer, that’s where all stories originate, with a character desiring something. So I guess I fear that being Zen and dong away with desire will make me not have anything to write about.