Judgment is a sly and wicked beast.
Here’s how judgment works on the Camino.
It works with a simple innocent question:
Where did you start from?
With that one question, you put judgment into train.
Oh, you started from Sarria did you?
(Meaning, you did the minimum walking required to get your Compostela)
Immediately you find yourself judging that person.
You’re not a true pilgrim, you say to yourself.
I started at St Jean Pied de Port.
I’ve walked further than you.
I’m better than you.
Bloody hell, you started in St. Petersburg?
Are you serious?
That’s gotta be like, five thousand ks or something, no?
You’re a shitload better pilgrim than me!
The Camino is a great place to shed judgment. For starters, most pilgrims are stripped of those material things that might prompt judgment.
You meet a pilgrim on the track and you are denied information about where they live – castle/mansion/free-standing house/semi-detached house/townhouse/unit/rented/owned/back seat of their car.
Or the kind of car they might drive – Bentley/Mercedes/Tesla/Kia/Kombi-van/junkheap aka shitbox.
And you can’t judge pilgrims by their accessories.
Women don’t often wear jewellery as a rule, and men tend to leave their Rolexes or their Philippe Pateks at home. Most pilgrims wear the same kind of clobber. Some might go upmarket and wear Jack Wolfskin or Arc’teryx, some might have bought all their gear from Decathlon, the big European discount store. But by and large you’ve got very little to judge people on.
It’s hard to judge pilgrims based on the usual criteria we use to judge. But given that we just love to judge, we’re then left to use other more nuanced means, such as the above innocent question.
One of my favourites was: How much does your backpack weigh? I could make very serious judgements about a person based on their response.
If their backpack was way in excess of 10% of their body weight I would classify them as a novice pilgrim. If their backpack was way less than 10% of their body weight I would classify them as an idiot. If they told me to fuck off I’d respectfully nod and fuck off.
At the heart of judgment is separation.
And a belief that you are inherently better than the person you’re judging.
You know more, you have more, you have better style and taste, you have superior skills, in one way or another you are better than the person you’re judging.
And in determining this, you feel better about yourself.
I try not to judge anymore.
It’s difficult, but I’ve learned the difference between judgment and discernment.
Judgment is a hierarchical mechanism. With the person judging being higher up the hierarchical scale than the person being judged.
Discernment is a preferential mechanism. What do you prefer? What’s appropriate and what’s not? There’s no separation in discernment.
We can’t take judgment out of our system. We need judgment to make cogent choices. But instead of using judgment to separate, we can use discernment to determine what’s a better fit, without the need to condemn or vilify or ridicule.
I can go to a movie and I can come out and say I like that movie or I don’t like that movie and I can choose to say what I say using either judgment or discernment.
These days I try and use discernment.
Except when it comes to Marvel movies…