“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~ Aristotle
Fact can be proven, an opinion is what a person thinks, and a judgment is a decision made.
Most of us understand that when we judge someone, or someone judges us, it is a negative emotional experience. As a result, we naturally want to avoid being judgmental, but this gets confusing when we feel we have to suppress thoughts that could actually be offering us guidance.
For example, we may meet someone new and suppress a negative feeling about them, thinking that we don’t want to fall into the trap of being judgmental. Later, though, it may turn out that paying attention to that thought could have helped us take care of ourselves or someone else.
It is important to learn to distinguish inner guidance, and having an opinion, from judgment, otherwise we run the risk of not listening to our intuition and not allowing ourselves to form opinions. Inner guidance and opinions both help us to interact more intelligently in the world, so we don’t want to throw them out in an effort to avoid being judgmental.
Our intuition usually makes itself known to us in a flash, and often has a physical component – a flutter in our stomachs, sweaty palms, or a chill. When we use this information to help us navigate a situation, we always benefit. Similarly, having an opinion about a person or an idea allows us to converse about it in a focused way with intention. Listening to our intuition and forming opinions are both positive outcomes of our ability to interpret the information that comes our way.
On the other hand, when we make a judgment, we attempt to have a final say on whether something or someone is inherently good or bad – right or wrong. Judgments close us down instead of opening us up; opinions have a lighter quality and are amenable to change. Once a judgment has been made, there is no more conversation or consideration, whereas opinions invite further debate.
Intuition guides us from moment to moment, but, unlike judgment, never makes a final decree. In other words, it is healthy to be open to the information we receive and to allow ourselves to process that information. As long as we stay open and flexible, we can trust that we have not fallen prey to the trap of judgment.
So here’s a simple exercise. The next time you engage in a conversation or exchange of ideas about politics, religious beliefs, cultural or ethnic traditions, or any topic that can be (and frequently is) considered controversial – pause and think about your position. Is it a fact, an opinion or a judgment? Is that how you want it shared?