“Robbers, perverts, killers, and tyrants – gather for your inspection their so-called pleasures!” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.34
Today’s culture is very aware of judging others. My daughter routinely replies to my observations, and sometimes she’s being funny, with “don’t judge me”. We need to be careful with how loosely we approach the act of judging. We make judgments in order to make informed decisions. When I’m hiking and I come across a bridge, I’ll judge the stability of the planks and cabling before I cross it.
We do the same with people. How is it possible that we come trust someone if we are not making judgments about their character. Citing the Christian bible:
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
The Stoics speak to a person not being defined by how they look. Even actions may not be capable of disclosing the quality of the person. In the Discourses Epictetus writes:
“In a word, neither death, nor exile, nor pain, nor anything of this kind is the real cause of our doing or not doing any action, but our inward opinions and principles.”
The robber, pervert, killer, and tyrant..what are the principles within them that motivate them to perform their atrocious acts? These principles will be reflected in their actions. These are obviously extreme examples, but it reminds us that we can learn from others through their actions. We can understand why they did it based on their principles. Judgment, itself, is not the problem but rather what and how we are judging.
We don’t need to make the same mistakes that have already been made. Be observant, with a proper mind.