Semantics: Judgement vs. Evaluation


Perhaps you’ve heard “The measure you give will be the measure you get”. It applies to a teaching of non-judgement. It dovetails well into the golden rule of “Treat others as you would want to be treated”. The aim of this notion is always outward. Not only is there an inherent good in simply making a decision, there’s an even higher good when desiring goodness for the other. Goodness is without judgement, doubt, fear, etc — and yet the exhort is seemingly directed to others only.

Perhaps I was late to the party on this notion, but the idea applies to yourself as well.

“DON’T JUDGE YOURSELF.” Is it really so strange? A similar and more common phrase that encapsulates this notion is “Don’t be so hard on yourself”. I think self-judgement has its place, but I take issue with the semantic. It’s a case of mere preference, but I use “self-evaluation”. In that same vain, we’re asked not to ‘judge’ others, but therein lies a vacuum. We have to resolve how we perceive or feel about someone, right? If not for our own safety at least.

Judgement implies an authoritative or entitled discernment of one’s character. There’s typically a kind of “corrective”, “righteous”, or “deterministic” tone featured with demonstrating judgement.

Evaluation neutrally, indifferent and without bias, finds resolve empirically based on one’s behavior.

Regarding evaluation, we can think of becoming little anthropologists.  We observe and record the data. We then dryly look to the data to decide if it conflicts with our personal values. We then discern and decide if the kind of behavior, based on the data, agrees or disagrees with us. We can then be healthily dualistic in our thinking. It, the object or the issue, either stays or goes. From a practical standpoint, being binary promotes healthy evaluations and leads to healthier decision making.

To circle back, it likely better to EVALUATE ourselves/others and not JUDGE ourselves/others. Judgement, in most cases, tends towards shame, doubt, guilt, and cultivates fears to grow and casts unwanted shadows. Evaluation simply takes you back to the chalk board to reassess the formula.


Poetry: those late nights

the apartment, I lift my head from

reading and catch a glimpse of the water stain. the

upstairs neighbor

ran her A/C all day till it coughed, died, and oozed its coolant through cracks

gathering just above my ceiling. that was the day you gave up

eyes vacant,

done searching, you

withdrew both hands

arms folded now. I turn away, moving like

molasses the

world around now fresh

brushstrokes, oil, everything like the background of old storybook pages.

a water stain;

those late nights.

Quick Read: Salvation is Becoming Yourself

As the title plainly and painfully asserts, this is salvation: growing into yourself.

Perhaps your acquaintance with the word is lodged in some sort of Christian Evangelical rhetoric. If so, then salvation might mean that your “soul is saved”, so now your guaranteed entry into heaven. Sometimes we’ll preempt the concept with conditional words like “achieve” as in “You’ll achieve salvation IF…” Again, you may have been subject to an otherwise anemic idea of salvation.

Let’s look to the root of the word. Salvus, the original Latin, means whole, safe, healthy and uninjured. A branch word Salve, a verb, is likely used more in the medicinal context; it means to ease or sooth.

If salvation is a state of being, then I suggest that it is without condition. It is not the Nirvana achieved after you’ve purged yourself of desire through various life cycles. It is not utilitarian in that you spend most of your life looking for the right screwdriver for the right screw. It is not something we achieve after doing such and such. It is a process of understanding yourself through ‘fear and trembling’. To echo Thomas Merton’s lasting insight on the idea, “I can’t tell you who you are, and you can’t tell me who I am.”    

Biology and virtue nudge us towards being ‘whole, safe, healthy and uninjured with ease and soothing’. We wish this on others and should therefore wish it upon ourselves. Salvation is an ‘end-of-the-day’ idea where it comes down to how YOU decide how to respond to fear and trembling; however, this shouldn’t be done alone. Understanding who you are is largely revealed in the context of fellowship. Allow others to honestly speak into your life. Be an honest voice to those as well.

Share in salvation. Revel in it. Learn, as I am, to thrive in it. It produces in you a growth unlike anything else found in this life. In it you get resilience, love and understanding.

Happy Monday.

Poetry: “a bear; maybe me”

from cave emerging slowly 

saunters south feeling spring’s ice          crush under paw. a day assembles into focus to creek to 

dip and dunk and drink 

replenishing the once massive grizzly hide. falls shadowed by rocks and redwood remember his youth splashing and eating and listening for mother’s call: 

“you’ll be alone one day;                       sleeping when cold                                     alone when old, but a soul unsold whose hide goes gray — but wise they’ll say.                    for he didn’t chase the sun till it burnt to none.                                                            instead he was still;                                            a bear never too old or bored to play.”

The Tao of Choice

I’m about a month out from a breakup. It didn’t end well. I’m also a good month out from failing a national martial arts exam. The results of the exam were subjective at best, but it still stings. My expectations, hopes, or ideals for both circumstances were shut down and it sucks. I handled it well at first, but I was simply in a kind of denial.

I’ve had horrible gut-wrenching spells of missing that person. I kept thinking, as the brain does, about all the positive things that we experienced leaving little room for the “reasons” behind us splitting up. I’ve been battling loneliness like never before. Compounded with this failed-test experience, I’m just asking to be buried under layers of sand.

I’ve been suspended in lethargy. It’s not quite depression. It’s not quite anxiety. It’s numbness. It’s indifference mixed a shot of self-deprecating ambivalence. In this state you feel more like you’re just existing and not living. Everything feels incidental and without purpose. You’re plagued with onset short-sightedness, reduced to only meet your base creature needs.

And I know, I’m grateful. I get it. I live in one of the most leveraged societies in the world. I can sit in this coffee shop and sip and type without the fear of bombs. From a practical perspective, I am privileged to have grown up int he Western world. I’m aware of this. Does knowing this aid to lessen the impact of my recent circumstance? Not really. Pain is pain regardless of context.

Sometimes we choose the pain, and sometimes the pain chooses us. If you distill this idea, then you’ve reduced it to choice. How appropriate an idea for autonomous free-willed humans? Stay with me.   

If happiness is a choice, then so is misery and vice-versa. Plain and simple. Yes, start to internalize that notion. Scrutinize it. Turn it on its own head. Any way you look at it, approaching it with a kind of with practical dualism (the unity of opposites) is likely the best way to understand it — and is therefore the quickest path to find resolve on the matter.

Drop a stone into a still pond. We see the ripples, but are often ignorant as to why we see them. It is the space between the ripples: the troughs, the rifts, the indented voids that makes the miniature waves possible. This is Yin and Yang in its true essence and application. But don’t be mistaken, these dark and light forces aren’t perpetually opposed to one another; there interrelated, interdependent, and complimentary.

If both of these circumstances had hands, then I’ve allowed them to press my head below water. Without knowing it, I’ve allowed them to control me. They are Yang, advancing and pushing. All I need to do is decide to be Yin, to accept, yield, and redirect their force. My head will get above water. I will breathe in life again.

Free Verse: “thoughts on control”

forcing words out is like trying to push the river south. we

often do this. we’ve lost ourselves to industry, empire, and have fallen deep into the mythology of greatness. “people should soon forget that the river moves on its own and will credit me. I will be deified, I will be whole, I will then be great.” is this not madness incarnate? we must know that we seek to control most when

we anticipate suffering. is not suffering the complete loss of control? the river

means to only have you float on it. is love not the same? we try to control it and it goes wrong. Love requires that you only give it away and yet we

try to keep it. control it. instead of falling back and into

it, letting it take us where it means to. the Westerner knows little about surrender, knows little about yielding, and knows even less about about living outside of time. the very things we draw passion and inspiration from are timeless, and yet we operate as if everything has an expiration.

Poem: “for her from Yesterday”


you’re not mine anymore, I gave you away to the silence of

life. silent because we no longer make the noise of plans, of arrangements, of mouths on skin, of prayers soft, of background music, of giggling, of silly animal sounds, of stirring spoons in morning coffees, of sleeping breathe and weeping eyes. my mansion of memories added another room, your room, that you haunt with side-glances, knowing smiles, and outbursts of laughter. But I gave you

away. you’re dangerously insatiable I could

not find it within me to meet the

need. And you’re worth every need, every want, every drop of passion that pours from your heart should fall into the right mouth.