I use the term non-judgment pretty frequently when I give talks, and if you’ve been on the spiritual path a while, you’ve heard other people say it, and may even have said it yourself.
But judgment is one of those words that can be confusing because sometimes it seems to make sense to judge something.
Judgment comes from one of two places; arrogance or understanding. It’s where the judgment comes from that makes a difference in whether or not we are expressing our divine nature.
For example, you may walk outside one morning and decide it’s very cold, and you need to grab a coat. You’ve just made a judgment about it being too cold for you to go out without a coat. So that sort of judgment makes sense; it comes from understanding that it’s too cold for you outside.
However, say you have a friend who decides that they aren’t cold, and they don’t want to wear a coat. If you say “are you insane? It’s freezing, you need to wear a coat. Only an idiot would go outside without their coat!” Well, that’s judgment that comes from arrogance (you know better than someone else). This is being judgmental. And the word judgmental always implies criticism and disapproval because it comes from arrogance.
Judgment that comes from arrogance is what happens when someone judges that they know what’s best, and someone else doesn’t know what’s best. It’s an “I’m right, you’re wrong” or “mine is best, and yours is worst,” situation.
Judgment that comes from understanding has no need to make someone else wrong for the sake of another being right, even if that actually happens to be the case. This type of judgment is better known as discernment.
Discernment is deciding what is appropriate or not appropriate for us. It’s a more conscious way of thinking and making choices. Something either works for us, or it doesn’t, but we don’t have to label it as good or bad, or right or wrong.
The practice of non-judgment then (as defined by many spiritual traditions) is basically a practice of understanding rather than arrogance, and using discernment to more consciously make choices for our brightest good.
Judgment implies separation (I’m right, you’re wrong) and is generally reactive in nature. Discernment leads us to wholeness (this is what works for me) and is very thoughtful in nature.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves is an understanding heart, for it brings peace and kindness into our lives no matter the turmoil and difficulties we may be facing.