Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Judging Judgers

The Washington Post recently did an article about a young unmarried southern Maryland couple. They have two kids from the girl's previous relationships and one from their current relationship. The article noted how this guy is one of the few who is trying to stick around and be a father to these kids.

But this couple is struggling, both financially and relationally. The girl has some psychological issues (manic-depressive) that require medication to remain stable. The guy has rotting teeth that need serious orthodontic work. He lost his job because he got mad at his boss. Now he does some part-time work to keep up. His girlfriend works full-time at a restaurant. They get subsidies from the state that help with the kids food and education. And they live in her father's house in the meantime to help keep the bills low.

However, they spend what little they get on Wii's, toys, expensive game consoles, cable, and so forth as if they were necessities.

The commentaries following the article pretty much included people's objections to the couple's lifestyle choices. However one commentator objected to the objections. This person said something like, "You people are so condescending. Yeah, (the couple) made some bad decisions, but they are young. And your judgments aren't helpful. At least you should sympathize with them."


It is true that merely making comments don't help the couple directly. But it is also true that the comment that they don't help doesn't help either. In fact, the idea that people shouldn't judge bad decision-making is strange and contradictory.

Think about it. The statement itself is judging the couple's decisions as bad. (Therefore, wouldn't it be right to help the couple by informing them as such.) Also, the commentator says that others are wrong for making judgments. In other words, the commentator is judging the comments of others.

And following, in evaluating the poor couple's decision-making, which are a series of bad judgments, the commentator is making an assessment about the quality of the couple's judgment skills. Therefore, the issue is not whether the couple made judgments, but rather that the quality of their judgments is poor (because they are unguided youth).

However, in evaluating the comments of others, this commentator is passing judgment that judgments themselves are wrong. So, the commentator shouldn't be judging other commentators! Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the quality of other people's judgments, rather than telling them that their comments aren't helpful (to who)? What does that have to do with anything?

What's a better approach?

It can be argued that the other commentators are wrong in their assessments. Or it can be argued that they are missing something. (And if so, please explain what that is.) And if they are condescending, it would have been more helpful if the commentator explained why his or her assessment is true and why judging the couple's decisions is not helpful. It would've been more helpful if the commentator explained how sympathy would help, who it would help, and why that it would be a better type of comment.

Unfortunately I found the person's comment even less helpful than the comments of those who evaluated the couple. Maybe some of the other commentators did it with the wrong attitude. But their comments made more sense than this person's comment.

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