Do Not Judge

Do Not Judge

At a conference I experienced that familiar unsettling situation where an audience member asks a question, you do the best you can to respond on your feet in-the-moment, only to later, after the event is over, come up with a really good response.

It’s that moment when you say to yourself, “Darn! I wish I’d said that then.”

There seems to have been an issue with this particular group of folks related to “judging.”

A previous speaker was challenged on a comment by someone in that audience who said, “It sounds like you’re judging.”

This was a similar response to a comment I’d made.

My response to the audience member was, “Sounds like you have a problem with judging. Tell me more.”

The fact that the audience chuckled was a clue to me that indeed, this crowd seemed to have an issue with “judging.”


What I wish I’d said then is: there’s a difference between being judgmental and exercising good judgment.

Being judgmental is a myopic and prejudicial attitude that inhibits dialogue, insight, and does not allow for a self-differentiated position.

But I don’t know how a leader can be effective without practicing good judgment, or, judging. It is, perhaps, what we refer to in religious language as “discernment.”

A good leader is constantly having to make a judgment between one thing and another, and, sometimes, between one person and another.

For example, when you need to make a new hire and you have to judge the best qualified among a dozen applicants.

We rarely make a hire based on the ‘most qualified,’ rather, on the basis of who we judge to be the best fit.

The leader in any system is required to practice judgment—choosing based on clarity of one’s rationale.

Lacking the capacity to practice good judgment one is left victim to uncertainty, whims, and predilections.


Sound judgment requires clarity about one’s values, beliefs, and a commitment to the informing principles that guide us.

Those are the same things necessary to practice self-definition and for self-differentiation.


I’m not sure about the source of the in speak about “judging is bad” in that group I addressed.

But it seems to me that it may be a case of misunderstanding and fuzzy thinking.

That often happens when dealing with terms with common roots, like “judgment” and “judgmental.”

The problem with misunderstanding, and the reason it is important to provide a corrective, is that misunderstanding leads to misapplication.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.

His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).


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