Mike Kueber's Blog

May 29, 2012

Inconsistently judgmental

Filed under: Aphorism,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 1:25 pm
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“Judgmental” has become one of my favorite descriptors over the past few years.  It means having an excessively critical point of view.  My ex-wife used to get mad at me for being so judgmental about others, especially while we were taking a Sunday afternoon drive.  I’m not sure if it was my judgments or me that made her mad.  Since then, however, I’ve experienced a role reversal. 

My best friend Mike Callen is probably the most judgmental person I know.  He was educated by the Jesuits and believes that it is a useful mental exercise to discuss whether individuals are good or bad people.  By contrast, I suggest to him that, until we walk a mile in their shoes, we are in no position to assess their goodness or badness, although we can fairly comment on elements of their conduct.  My position sounds a lot like that hoary parental maxim that you might hate what your kid did, but you never stop loving your kid.   

Now I sense that I’m getting ready for a role reversal again, prompted by Jesuit-educated Mike and another Facebook friend.  Mike called me from his hometown of Fulton, NY a few days ago, where he was attending the town’s Memorial Day parade because his dad was the honorary Grand Marshall.  He said that he had been reflecting on my criticism of his judgmental ways and had decided that he was wasting too much time being mad at some bad people.  (Don’t get him started on John Edwards or mega-church preachers.)  Starting now, he resolved to change.

Mike’s change of philosophy contrasts nicely with a comment I received on Facebook a few weeks ago from a friend.  She noted that I often plant the seed for a serious philosophical discussion in my Facebook postings and then adjourn to the sidelines when two partisans launch into full-scale fisticuffs.  Guilty as charged. 

Of course, it makes common sense to look for cover when people start shooting wildly, but there have been a number of occasions where I should have followed Teddy Roosevelt’s advice and gotten into the arena:

  • It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Although my philosophy over time might be a bit inconsistent, we all know that a foolish consistancy is the hobgoblin of little minds.  Actually, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
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