Recently I was visiting the campus of a College of Medicine whose university name shall not be mentioned. I had some time before a class I was going to take, so I was walking the halls. I was interested to see that each graduating class wrote their own vows. Odd, isn't it? They don't have standard promises. They make up their own. Anyway, the one that caught my eye was for the Class of 2013. Among other things they vowed to their patients, "We will listen without judgment."
I was, in all honesty, completely baffled. I mean, is that what I would want from my doctor? No judgment? Because, you see, as far as I know I hope to trust my doctor's judgment when it comes to my care, and if my doctor is not going to judge, I'd be lost. I thought, "Well, maybe judgment means something other than what I'm thinking it means." So I decided to look it up.
Dictionary.reference.com has a host of dictionaries and provided a list of possible meanings. Besides the obvious "ruling of a court" which wouldn't pertain to either my definition or that of the doctors, there were a variety of meanings. One was "the faculty of being able to make critical distinctions." Another: "a particular decision or opinion formed in a case in dispute or doubt." A good general definition went like this: "the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense." Good sense. That made sense. A generic one was "the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion." When I hear "judgment", these are the kinds of things that come to my mind. And these are not bad.
What, then, does it mean to them? Well, clearly, first and foremost, judgment, whatever it means, is a bad thing. Patients don't want doctors to have it or use it. One definition from that list of dictionaries included "to assume the position of critic". Maybe that's it? Well, I would hope not. I don't want my doctor to think, "Well, consuming arsenic will kill him, but I don't want to be judgmental, so I won't say anything." So what does it mean?
I'm sure that there is, somewhere in their minds, something beyond "judging" as in "forming an opinion" and more of the concept of condemnation. You know, that "critic" aspect. Suggesting that what you're doing is wrong. That's "judgmental" and "bad". But is it? If a friend steals from you repeatedly, are you not wise in moving that friend to the "not friend" category and taking steps to stop the theft? Or is that just "judgmental", "critical", bad? No! It's normal and wise!
People don't want others to judge them. That doesn't make them commendable. It makes them foolish. "Don't tell me what I'm doing is wrong." But ... what if it is? Sure, there is the whole problem of poor judgment, but that's not in view here. The whole concept of "Don't judge me" is a dangerous path to take. Indeed, if it's what you're seeking from you doctor, don't expect to survive it. Nor should you expect to do well if it's what you demand from those who love you. In Jesus's words, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). That's the kind of judgment I need from my doctor. That's the kind of judgment I want from those who love me. Please remind me not to get a doctor from the Class of 2013.