“Thinking is difficult, that’s why people prefer to judge”, wrote Carl Gustav Jung. In the age of opinion, where everything is judged and criticized, often without a solid foundation, without a prior analysis and a deep knowledge of the situation, Jung’s words take on greater prominence, becoming almost prophetic.
Judging impoverishes us
Identifying the act of thinking with the act of judging can lead us to live in a dystopian world more typical of the scenarios imagined by George Orwell than of reality. When judgments supplant thought, any clue becomes evidence, subjective interpretation becomes objective explanation, and mere conjecture acquires a category of evidence.
As we move away from reality and enter into subjectivity, we run the risk of confusing our opinions with the facts, becoming incontestable judges – and quite partial – of the others. That attitude impoverishes what we judge and us.
When you’re too focused on yourself, when you don’t manage to drop your ego that takes on excessive proportions, or simply you’re so much in a hurry to stop thinking, you prefer to judge. You add dual labels to catalog things, events and people in a limited spectrum of “good” or “bad” using as a yardstick to measure your desires and expectations.
Acting as judges not only takes us away from reality, but also prevents us from knowing it – and enjoying it – in its richness and complexity, turning us into unfriendly and little empathetic persons. Every time we judge something, we simplify it to its minimum expression and close a door to knowledge. We become mere animalis iudicantis.
Thinking is enriching
In the liquid society we live in, it’s much easier to judge, criticize quickly, and move on to the next trial. What doesn’t resonate with our belief system is judged as useless or stupid. In the era of instant gratification, thinking demands an effort that many are not willing to do.
The problem is that judgments are interpretative assignments that we give to events, things or people. Each judgment is a label that we use to attribute a value – deeply biased – since it is a subjective act based on our prejudices, beliefs and paradigms. We judge based on our personal experiences, which means that many criticisms are a more emotional than rational act, the expression of a desire or a disappointment.
Thinking, on the contrary, demand reflection, analysis and a dose of empathy with what we’ve been thinking about. It is necessary to separate the emotional from the facts, shedding light on the subjectivity and adopting an essential psychological distance.
For Plato, a wise man is who’s able to observe both the phenomenon and its essence. A wise person is one who not only analyzes the contingent circumstances, which are usually mutable, but is able to tear the veil of superficiality to reach the most universal and essential.
Therefore, the act of thinking has an enormous enriching potential. Through thought we try to get to the essence of phenomena and things. We go beyond the perceived, we pass over that first impression to dive into the deepest causes, effects and relationships. This demands an arduous intellectual activity through which we grow as people and expand our vision of the world.
Thinking means to stop. Make silence. Pay attention. Control the impulse to judge precipitously. Weigh all the possibilities. Deepen in the things, with rationality and empathy.
The secret lies in “being curious, not critical”, as Walt Whitman said.