Mind Games: Judgement vs. Discernment

By Linda-Ann Stewart Ct.H., Ct.H.A

Those of us concerned about spiritual growth generally aim to be nonjudgmental. We know the dangers of being judgmental, and what can happen to ourselves and others when we fall into those negative thinking patterns. But do you really know what judging is? Judgement is when a person places an emotional value of good or bad on an activity, person, or experience. When they see an apple, if they determine that it's a terrible fruit, then anyone who eats one is also bad. Judgement comes from a feeling of shame and inferiority.

A person who judges others feels inadequate. They feel that they aren't good enough. Not that what they DO isn't good enough. But that they are not enough. They probably had parents and an environment that criticized them repeatedly, and they have internalized those statements. The only way they can get some relief from the pain and anguish is to dump their negative feelings on others. They judge others as "bad," and then, momentarily, they can feel superior to someone or something else.

I once had someone tell me that anyone who likes the color green is stupid and has no sense of taste. Because I had the audacity to disagree, she took it personally, as if my opinion was attacking hers.

Being judgmental becomes a vicious cycle. If a person judges others, you can bet they're doing the same thing to themselves. Otherwise, they wouldn't need to find a target to shame. As people who are interested in developing spiritually, we don't want to judge others, and we certainly want to stop judging ourselves. But too many people seeking spiritual growth swing too far in the other direction, and don't utilize their God-given ability to discern what is better for them and what is not so great. There actually is a difference between judgement and discernment.

Whereas judgement assigns an emotional value on something, discernment is when an individual assesses a situation or a person objectively and decide that they don't want to participate. For instance, they don't like apples, and decide not to eat one. There is no emotion attached to the decision. Just a simple "no thank you."

Maybe an acquaintance keeps making disparaging remarks about Jill's clothing as a way of teasing her. Jill has the right to decide that this isn't a person she wants in her circle of friends. It doesn't mean that she judges this person as "bad." Just that the person's actions makes her uncomfortable, and she doesn't want to be around them.

Jill can accept the person as they are, knowing that they have the right to express themselves as they want. But also knowing that their self-expression isn't compatible with hers. And if they really hurt her feelings, she can accept the individual, but not the way they act. If what they're doing is inappropriate, then she can separate it from the person. Suppose a child leaves their bicycle behind her car, she doesn't see it and runs over it. The child isn't a bad person. They just did something irresponsible.

Being discerning means detaching from a situation, and letting go of any need to feel superior. It also means not avoiding making a decision for fear of being judgmental. Either of those issues has an emotional charge. Discernment is a spiritual quality, and one which we all need to develop for our spiritual evolution. We need to learn to say "no thank you" to that which is our lesser good, so we can say "yes" to our greater Good. For if we can't decide between turning left or right, how can we learn to follow the path of our Highest Good? We will just keep playing mind games.


Linda-Ann Stewart is a nationally known hypnotherapist, writer, speaker and leads seminars on empowerment and stress reduction. You can visit her web site at www.cedarfire.com.

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