Judgy Wudgy was a bear. Judgy Wudgy had no hair. No, I don’t know why Judgy Wudgy was bald because I forget the rest of the rhyme. Perhaps he had alopecia. But I do remember the moral of the story: don’t judge.
Have you noticed how being judgemental has become a terrible sin? Suddenly, we’re not allowed to judge anyone for anything and this is starting to bother me. Particularly when the “don’t-judge” admonishment is used as a moral gagging tool by someone who doesn’t agree with you.
Like many people, I knew far more about life before I’d lived much of it myself. I judged parents, bosses and drivers of 4WDs far more harshly before I became those people myself.
These days I’m less inclined to jump to big conclusions based on small things but it seems to me almost impossible and fairly futile to suspend judgement all together.
Absolutely, there are kinds of judgement I abhor. Like seeing a woman in a flesh-flashing outfit and calling her a slut. What can someone’s clothes tell you about their sexual behaviour? Or walking past a girl pushing a pram and thinking, “dole bludger”. That’s ridiculous. “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is a cliché because it’s true. But you can judge a book by what’s inside it.
So when someone is, say, found guilty of deliberately harming their child, I have no problem judging them a bad parent.
Just like a person who crashes their car repeatedly could be fairly described as a bad driver.
Several times this year I’ve clashed with friends and strangers about judgement. I’ll walk you through a few of these skirmishes and you can judge me afterwards.
The first involved an observation I made on The Today show about a woman who received a suspended sentence after being found guilty of giving her 5 year old son five shots of Grappa and getting him so drunk, his blood alcohol reading was .09 and he had to be hospitalised.
She was already on a suspended sentence for leaving three of her children under 10 unattended and based on those and other facts, I expressed concern that this woman was still responsible for several children (including a baby) because she clearly didn’t know how to parent.
To say I pulled my punches on that one is an understatement.
Afterwards, via email, one viewer still condemned me for being judgemental. Well, sure. I’m totally going to judge and even condemn any adult who abuses a child. I try not to judge them as a person (and usually fail) but I certainly judge their parenting.
About a year later, I wrote about a case where a man received a suspended sentence for shaking or throwing his 12-week-old baby so hard, the child is now partially blind and badly brain-damaged. The judge thought it would be more helpful if the man helped care for his severely disabled son rather than going to jail. On my website, I expressed shock that such a person would even be allowed around vulnerable children. Cue finger shaking. “There but for the grace of God go I,” chastised some. “Don’t be so judgemental,” said many others including a good friend. “He might be a terrific father for all you know.” Really? But how?
Are there reasons for such crimes? Excuses? Back stories? Frankly, who cares. My concern in these cases was not for the adults because they’re…. adults. They can be responsible for themselves and make their own choices. Babies and children unfortunately don’t have that same choice. They’re at the mercy of their primary carers. And I believe not all primary carers are up to the job. Biology isn’t enough to make you an adequate parent let alone a good one.
“But you don’t know all the facts” insist the don’t-judge police. Well, in these two cases, I knew enough to make judgements, which, incidentally, are of absolutely no consequence. I’m not an actual judge or a DOCS worker. My opinion is merely that. So I’m perplexed when someone tries to shut it down by taking some odd moral high ground.
Anyway, not all of the “judgement” accusations levelled at me are about things as serious as child abuse. When US woman Michelle Duggar gave birth to her 19th child several months early after complications, I wryly suggested she may want to buy some condoms on the way home from hospital. Oh Mia, stop judging.
This made me consider the difference between being non-judgemental and suspending rational thought.
Thoughts, opinions, assumptions, judgements; there’s a stack of overlap between these things and they’re a fundamental part of navigating life.
I’m confused about this Pollyanna state in which some people would have us live. A world without judgement. A Kumbaya land of rainbows and unicorns where every choice was equal, every behaviour tolerated and everyone given an understanding pat on the back for doing their best. Even if their best put a child in hospital. But wait, don’t judge.