The word “judgment” often carries negative connotations, but being judged can be useful.
Consider a writer sitting in a critique group. The writer gives a piece to the members. Suppose the writer hears a comment such as, “Your main character is too bland for readers to care about. He needs to take a stand or risk something.” The member who made that comment is making a judgment, giving criticism with an eye to improvement. The writer may not like that comment, but wants the piece to be as good as possible before submitting it for possible publication, so the judgment is helpful.
Now think of someone who hears from a person who is an authority figure—whether parent, teacher, or boss—”You’re lazy. You’ll never get anywhere in this world.” Judgment is wielded in this instance as a put-down. No guidance is given for improvement. This example doesn’t even provide motivation for improvement. This is judgment gone bad. I would go so far as to say it’s cruel.
What’s the difference between the two? To me, it’s the motive behind the words. In the first example, the motive is a desire to help another see what can be improved. In the second, the motive is to make the authority figure feel better at the expense of the person being judged.
All this makes me wonder: what kind of judgments do I give? Are they helpful—the kind I want to receive? Or are they cruel—the kind that would make me cringe if I was on the receiving end?