I do not have the ability to judge someone for the things that they think or feel, and I am immensely glad that no one can judge me for what goes on in my head. I am not always proud of my first reaction to the world.
Luckily, while I cannot always choose my thoughts, I can choose what I say and do. I can choose not to be reflexive; I can be better than my instincts and reactions. And that is how the world judges me, because that is who I am in the world. It isn’t possible to know a person except by their words and deeds.
We can pass judgement on a person for the color of their skin or the health of their mind or body. We can judge them by the languages they speak or how proficient they are at the activities we value. Doing so, though, is much more a reflection on us than on them. We are showing our fears, our limitations, and our prejudices when we judge people for those things about them which were beyond their control.
When, on the other hand, we judge people for what they say and do, and we either condone or condemn their actions, we can be fair and faithful to our Principles. When we say, “That is an unjust action,” or “That is unwelcome language,” we are living into our values. It is not wrong to judge actions and rhetoric and to ask for change. Our Principles state that we will work for justice, that we will hold one another responsible, that we will search for truth and that we will work democratically to achieve our goals. Those things require judgements on our part.
We are also covenanted to grow compassion, to see the worth and dignity in every person, and to honor our interconnectedness. What we cannot do is give up on the other person. Even when condemning their actions, we must be willing to invite them to conversation, even community, where we encourage them to be their better self. I fail at this occasionally, and so I am reminding myself (and all of you) that this is our pledge to the world.
We do not give up. We hope, always, for the growth and development of character and compassion in one another. We know that personal change is possible, and that we need the best of every person to build the Beloved Community. We are called to save every life, no matter what a person has done, and to attempt to reform every villain. Only when we refuse to extinguish that hope are we truly honoring the worth and dignity of every human being.
We cannot know what thoughts lead others to their actions, but we can judge those actions, and we should. What we cannot do is become people who hate or write off others. We can tell them their actions seem wrong to us, but the person is still human.