One of the things that most frustrates me about myself, and humanity at large, is our seemingly constant and often rash judgements (of situations, people, actions, ideas, beliefs). Sure, there are some things that most people will agree are bad… murder, rape, racism. And I don’t disagree. But too many judgements are made based on ignorance, misunderstanding, a cultural norm, or excessive pride. So many people have been hurt in the name of “goodness”… But if it causes that much hurt, how good can it actually be?
When you think of the words ‘witchcraft’ or ‘wiccan’ what comes to mind?
Some people would say spells, potions, magic, evil, or Satan. But where have you gotten these ideas from? Do you know if they are accurate? Have you researched these things for yourself before making a judgment about them?
I use this example particularly because of my own experience. Being raised in the Christian tradition, the primary information I had about witches, wiccans, and paganism was incredibly biased and vague. In general the sense that I got was that these practices were evil, dangerous, and from the devil. However, I recently was doing some of my own research (all the while feeling embarrassed for my curiosity, ashamed for my interest, and fearful of judgment if my husband, family, church members, or peers found out.) But the things that I found were so incredibly different from what I expected. Take this YouTube video for example (skip to 2:55 for the start of the list):
All this isn’t to say that I am now a practicing Wiccan or anything… it’s just showing a pretty stark example of my assumptions having been based on the views of other people/institutions. How many of my other beliefs and assumptions have I just absorbed and integrated into my life without checking their validity?
Another example along the same vein is the practice of tarot card readings. Have you ever participated in a tarot card reading? Do you simply view them as erroneous attempts at “fortune telling”? Consider these quotes:
“Tarot cards do not tell the future; rather, tarot is a tool for spiritual guidance and enables the person receiving the reading to connect to his or her inner wisdom,” she told INSIDER. “Tarot readings help a person understand what he or she needs to know about a particular situation. Decks are best used as a tool of inner wisdom and guidance, as readings give a person insight to past, current and future events based on the person’s current path at the time of the reading. The cards do not necessarily reveal what will happen, but instead, allow a person to gain an understanding of a situation and determine the best course of action based on what is known and what the cards show.” (source, emphasis added)
“Tarot is a divination method. It’s like a tool for your intuition; it doesn’t just say something on its own. It just helps you reframe a problem and see it from a new perspective.” (@1:56)
“Contrary to what the uninitiated might think, the meaning of divination cards changes over time, shaped by each era’s culture and the needs of individual users.” (source
So based on these definitions, saying that tarot cards are dangerous is about the same as saying that listening to one’s own intuition and insight is dangerous.
So, let’s take another specific example: I hate when I see my own tendency to judge and yet I never feel better when I judge myself for how judgmental I am being. In fact, even as I write this I am making a judgement. I am saying that one way of interacting with the world and people around me is better than another way. (An open-minded, intentional, grace-filled approach toward the world is, in my opinion, inherently better than a close-minded, rash, judgmental approach.)
And yet I am open to the idea that I may be wrong in this… and I would love to have a calm respectful conversation about it with anyone who is willing.
And I guess that’s my point. At the end of the day, I think most of this comes down to a difference in values. Something that is not going to be easily “fixed” or reconciled. Something that takes time, honesty, and a willingness to journey into the uncomfortable.
Perhaps more empathy can be gained by thinking about the situation in terms of personal values: If one person’s highest values are authenticity and personal freedom they are going to deem different things and ways of being as ‘good.’ (For example, freedom of speech, regardless of its potential impact on others.) If someone else values interpersonal harmony above all else, they will be more likely to desire restrictions to personal freedom for the sake of getting along. Others may value commitment, patriotism, sacrifice, equality, efficiency, etc. And all of these impact their views of what is right, good, and desirable. (Another post I wrote about a similar topic of ‘what is classified as a good reason?’ can be found here.) Not to mention that all of these things are parts of a greater system running… You don’t just come out of the womb with these values. There are so many things at play in every situation, that have brought us to where we are in this moment. If you really understood all of those factors (from inborn temperament to family structure to childhood experiences to past relationships (see articles/books/podcasts on systems thinking for more info)) do you think there would still be room for judgment? Or would we all be able to give each other (and ourselves) a little more grace?
And the thing is, I don’t see what harm could possibly come from this openness to conversation. Especially given the fact that gentleness and acceptance and a desire to dig deeper don’t mean I am/you are necessarily condoning the behavior. What they do often point to is a preservation of humanity and a desire to understand. And it’s in these spaces of love, acceptance, grace, humility, and connection that we can move toward true goodness (whatever that may be).
Some Questions to Consider
🔸 What things are you judging because you don’t understand them? Or because they threaten your way of being? Or because someone else told you they are bad/wrong?
🔸Do you find yourself using the words ‘weird’ or ‘normal’? What can that show you about the judgments you are making?
🔸What things in your life do you tend to feel judged about? Your way of parenting? Clothing choices? Career path? Aspects of your personality?
🔸Where are the spaces that you feel the least amount of judgment? Are you cultivating those spaces in your own life and with the people around you?