The value of judgment


Since starting back to school, I have been on an accelerated schedule.  Each class lasts just five weeks but crams 16 weeks worth of information into each one.  This has meant that I’m spending a lot of time doing school work as I have two discussion questions and a paper due  each week.  Doing this post keeps me in the same spot, but is different than doing school work.  Thankfully. My brain hurts.

I worked on the ambulance recently and was dispatched to an area ED to take a patient to an in patient psych facility for suicidal ideation.  Fine, no problem, we do this all the time.  When I got there, I received the history from the nurse caring for the patient.  It seems she had remarked to the doctor that she just wanted to put a gun to her head and end it all, that she screwed up everything she tried, and that everyone would be better off without her.  She had access to a gun at home, so this was not just idle conversation.  Well, OK.  That will definitely buy you some time to cool off in a controlled environment.

What happened next is that the nurse also proceeded to inform me that she had two small children at home, under the age of two.  I remarked that well, yes, and killing her self would be SOOO much better for her children than having their mother (however much of a screwup she might think she is) around, that knowing their mother killed herself would be great for them.  The nurse gave me a rather surprising response:  “WE don’t make judgments!”  Well, yes in fact we do…or we would not have made the judgment that she was in danger of hurting herself, of putting her children in danger, and therefore went through the effort of placing her somewhere that she could hopefully get help.  This was not a chronic ‘abuser’ of the system, this was a young mother in a situation where she felt overwhelmed and without resources.  You may think my response was inappropriate, but it wasn’t without compassion for either her or her children.  I guess I just don’t understand the reasoning that leaving one’s children motherless is better than having a flawed, caring mother.

This idea of being non judgmental I have come to believe is killing our society.  Of course we judge!  And we should!  Else how will people with a temporary down in their lives be helped back up?  Of course we judge!  Otherwise people who steal wouldn’t go to jail.  Of course we judge!

What has happened is that the concept of judgment has been rolled in (at least in mental health and health care circles) with the idea of condemnation.  And this has led to the idea, perfectly framed by the above nurse, that we don’t judge.  Utter nonsense.  We don’t condemn. This idea seems to have spilled over into society generally.  Both in the job that I do, and by virtue of being a clergy person in a minority religion, I have seen more than my fair share of people who really have no social or interpersonal skills, who are downright self destructive in their determination to be nonconformist, who use that word ‘judge’ as a bat to beat anyone who points that out to them.  Now of course, if one is pointing it out when the comment is not solicited, and the person is not in a position to require said pointing out, it is naturally inappropriate and unwanted.  However, when said person is in the ED due to self destructive behaviors, or asking for counseling type help due to the same self destructive behaviors, then it is both solicited and appropriate.

Judgment entails an idea of the ethical and moral basis for living in society.  For instance, I personally happen to believe that, if you are strong enough, mature enough, and well adjusted enough, then a group marriage is possible.  I personally am not enough of any of those things, and neither is my husband, and therefore since we know we are not, we choose not to have a marriage that encompasses more than the two of us.  However, neither of us condemns anyone who realistically and honestly evaluates themselves and their situation and seeks out that sort of marriage.  We know of couples that made it work for more than twenty years.  We also, however, know a couple that we married in the service of our clergy duties, who successfully managed to destroy a marriage of nearly a decade in less than a year because they didn’t do that evaluation of themselves before they opened up their home and marriage.  They not only destroyed their marriage, they lost their home, their business, and forced their child into the loss of both his parents in the home together.  Am I making a judgment?  You bet.  Just because you like the idea of something doesn’t mean it’s practical or a good idea.

We judge, perhaps unfairly, the pot smokers.  Well, it is (presently) illegal, but is it immoral?  Is it unethical?  Does the doing of it hurt themselves or their families?  Naturally, if they get caught and go to jail it does, but I’m speaking of purely the actual use of the drug.  I’m not going to pass a negative judgment on it, nor will I condemn it.  I really can’t see a problem in a personal choice.

A nurse condemned me not too long ago in the comments section of another blog for *gasp* passing judgment on some people on welfare and food stamps, saying I was a discredit to my profession by making judgments because we as nurses do not pass judgment.  Ah, sorry, as the condemnation shows, we both can and do, quite often against members of our own profession, whom we hold to much higher standards than the people we care for (showing perhaps just how little some of us really do value our clients…?).  Well, sorry, but if you can afford acrylic nails, you can afford food.  If you have a nicer phone than me, you can afford food.  If your diamond is bigger than mine (which doesn’t take much but I got exactly what I wanted) you can afford food.  Now, you may not be able to afford takeout, you may not be able to afford premade frozen food, but frankly your priorities are messed up if your phone and nails and jewelry mean more to you than feeding your family.

We have a whole legion of people in society who want neither to be productive nor self supporting.  And yet they also do not want to be judged.  Sorry, can’t have it both ways.  Judged, yes.  Not perhaps condemned though.

Judgment offers a way to point out problems, and a way to offer solutions.  Condemnation may point out problems but it certainly does nothing to offer solutions.  Do I prefer judgment?  Naturally.

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