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Discernment vs. Judgment

© 2004 Jeremy Youst

“The practice of discernment is part of higher consciousness.  Discernment is not just a step up from judgment.  In life’s curriculum it is the opposite of judgment.  Through judgment, a man reveals what he still needs to confront and learn.  Through discernment, he reveals what he has mastered.”

Man’s original sin was judgment. That is the only sin which a pure and innocent soul can commit.  The immediate, inevitable, and unavoidable consequence of judgment is separation from the object of your judgment, and from God…  Judgments have a way of expanding and multiplying until separation from God becomes a real and monumental problem.”
Love Without End  – Glenda Green

When you judge someone, you hurt.  You hurt out loud.  You hurt yourself and the thing or person you are judging.  When you judge, it is usually because you feel emotional about someone or something, what they represent or what you feel they have done to you. The feelings you have literally propel the thoughts into action.  They get charged and want to go somewhere.  “Hey slowpoke, get the h… out of the way, will ya!”  Every time you think, speak or yell out a fiery judgment to the world, even if in the slightest way, reality stands at attention, then it moves.  Judgments effect the reality around you, and usually not in a positive way.

A dog being yelled at doesn’t necessarily know what you’re talking about, but it knows enough to get out of the way of the force (or shoe!) coming at it.  It responds to the feeling behind the words.  The words or curses getting rocketed out by your feelings act like a toxic gas or poison, and pollute those that receive them, including you.  You may think your ideas are based upon past experience about what should have happened or should be happening now.  You may think they’re deserved.  Or you may even think your ideas and conclusions are logical and reasonable, but they’re your conclusions nonetheless. They’re constructions of your own mind, and the story you tell in your mind of what reality should look like.

All emotionally laden ideas or judgments in the present come from preconceived ideas in the past.  Judgments develop out of an attempt to make sense of your life, especially as it applies to your relationships and the world around you.  Judgments become “negative” to the extent they are based upon fearful notions that have been set into motion because of unresolved pain and suffering. Injuries to your body, heart and soul create defense mechanisms that seek to minimize further wounding.  A dog bite received as a child often leads to extreme caution to all four-legged furry creatures encountered in the present.  Unforgiven, the pain gets associated or generalized to anything similar, and starts to limit the enjoyment of your current or future reality.

In the short run, the lessons and the associated judgments you have about painful occurrences may be very effective in diminishing the experience of similar pain in the present.  Certainly, we have all benefited tremendously from the gift of discrimination, for example, when encountering a furry, black-and-white striped animal behind the garage that looks cute enough to pet.  But in the long run, however, the painful conclusions you make to prevent further wounding, when left unrecognized and unhealed, may actually work to further the very painful experiences that you’re seeking to avoid. Exaggerated fear of all dogs is usually sensed immediately in their presence, and often causes them to respond even more warily and unfriendly than normal.

When unrecognized and unchecked, judgments actually close you off from the very thing that hurts.  Judgments prevent the opportunity to re-examine the original hurt because they keep you away from the intimate reality of what really occurred back then and what is actually occurring right now. Judgments separate, and tend to perpetuate the original pain through denial rather than healing from reality. When you judge you want to look outside of yourself as to what should or shouldn’t be happening – as if you, the perceiver, don’t have anything to do with the interpretation of what happened then or is happening now.

Like a child that holds up its hands in front of its face and proclaims, “You can’t see me!” judgments ignore the most obvious truth of all: YOU are the creator of your own judgments! You are the interpreter of your own experience.  Without recognizing that the trouble you’re having now is actually about you and not someone or something else, you miss the obvious lesson that might be involved with your experience. As the above quote indicates, the judgments you make can actually become a sort of prescription to the universe as to where your next life’s lesson needs to be.

However, judgments are not all bad.  There is a constructive side to the discrimination that judgments have to offer, and that is what might be called discernment.  Used in this way, the primary difference between discernment and judgment is emotion. Judgment holds a frozen emotion based upon a past painful experience and discernment does not.  Discernment lives more in the present and, as such, is the observation of a difference without an emotional “story” attached to it.

The need to recognize and celebrate differences is as natural and necessary as the Creator creating itself. Discernment is the discrimination of difference according to the integrity felt within a whole.  Discernment helps to establish what is real versus what is not, and creates distinctions of preference according to the choices you make. All four-legged furry creatures may not be dangerous, but certainly ones that growl as you approach them or have black and white stripes may be.  Whereas judgments tend to separate, discernments tend to unify.  They do so because they respond to and ultimately support the reality, purposefulness, development and interrelationship of all things and/or expressions of all things found within Creation.

Discernment is the power behind the choices you make according to the truth of who you really are.  Discernment lends a hand to your need to grow and expand, and your need to know what is happening in your world right now. It is the voice of the rational (and intuitive) mind working together as “reality assessors” within your own individual and unique consciousness.  As such, discernment holds the promise of personal spontaneity and responsiveness, and can inspire the essence of imaginative expression and play. The innocence reclaimed from the wounds of a dog bite can actually lead to a deeper understanding of canine behavior and may in time develop into deep, playful and loving connections with those big, furry friends.

The journey from judgment to discernment is the promise of consciousness to honestly meet and learn about all aspects of worldly and relational existence. It is the free will and power found within the healing Now as consciousness works to correct and integrate the pains of the past. Discernment calls to the courage of forgiveness found within the realm of the heart, and shines its light into the often-darkened realm of the fearful, associative mind. Drained of limiting emotion, discernment offers a way to understand reality in a fresh new way.

The passage of consciousness towards discernment happens when you let go of the stories you tell about yourself or others from the past and step into the compassionate reality of your Self in the present. The result of this journey is freedom, for it reminds you that there is very little outside of yourself except for that which you have invented in your mind. When it comes down to it, reality is really rather delicious when it is experienced fully in the present.