Owning a Judgment

Wherein I own a specific judgment, and discuss what judgments reveal:

It’s about time that I own up here to the fact that I can be extremely judgmental. My quickest trigger is when I think that someone is co-opting a long-standing tradition, particularly when I then see them blend it with something else to turn it into a “new” thing and they market themselves as a “teacher.” My judgment is at its worst when I perceive that the tradition comes from a “brown” culture and the teacher of this “new” thing isn’t of that culture (usually White, or at least raised solidly American). It is not, however, limited to just this.

Living in San Francisco and having been involved in leftist politics my entire life, it feels like I bump up against this trigger almost every day.

I get triggered because there’s a part of me that feels like the original tradition is being misunderstood, appropriated, and/or fragmented, not being explored or honored in its entirety. There’s also a part of me that feels like the new “teacher” is disrespecting the traditions of apprenticeship, the depth that comes from life-long study. I am saddened by people saying they “know” a topic. I love the sense that something is infinitely unknowable, that there’s always more to learn.

I judge what I perceive as arrogance. I idolize being humble.

What makes this ridiculous is that I am, at the same time, deeply enamored of innovation and of “mash-up” approaches to art and science. I am a fan of “figure it out as you go along” and get upset when people get stuck in the cycle of continually researching and never get to the doing of a thing.

What makes this judgment frustrating is that I often scold myself for holding back too long to put my creations out into the world, that I have a part of myself that waits for others to grant me permission to do things – and I am constantly pushing myself to give myself that permission. I get envious of the people who don’t seem to have this obstacle. I think sometimes that envy is easier to feel as a judgment.

And what makes all this painful is that I have done this myself. I am a diletante of many subjects, some of which I’ve been known to talk about “with authority.” I too have read a little or done a minor amount of study on something and then run with it. I am not completely ok with this. I judge myself for not devoting myself to a lifelong study of any individual field of study – even while I am proud of my tendency to incorporate so many different perspectives into the way I think. I feel my pride go against my desire for humility. I am in love with the idea that I am my own original creation at the same time that I value giving props to the people and schools of thought that influence me.

I find this all hard to reconcile.

The thing about judgments that hit me like a thunderbolt when I learned it: Judgments point directly towards something about ourselves that we don’t like. The level of judgment is directly related to how much we fight against that part of ourselves.

The practice is to learn to recognize what I perceive as my “flaws” and accept them, even love them. And then I anticipate my judgments will fade into something more reasonable and softer, like an opinion or a point of view. Or maybe it’ll be anger because there’s something legitimately wrong. Meanwhile, I’m sure I’ll continue to be myself, learning a little bit of this and that, and excited about the latest blended something or other that allowed me see something new.


  1. Holle

    This is soooooooooooooooo me. I love it-uh is that a judgment?
    Thank you for putting this into words.

  2. cianna

    You’re very welcome! I’m happy to hear it resonates with you!

Comments are closed.