It's Not Good, It's Not Bad, But It's Not Me


Is a butterfly good or beautiful?
Is a butterfly good or beautiful? | Source

Letting go of judgment

We all have a tendency to call some things good, and others bad. Most of us use polite terms like "positive" and "negative," but, if we look closely at our feelings, we'll see we're doing the same thing as those who talk about "good" and "bad," or even "good" and "evil."

The tendency to label things good and bad is, itself, harmful. Note, I don't say "bad." I use three pairs of terms most often: "effective" and "ineffective"; "healthy" and "unhealthy"; and "new" and "old." All of these terms are contextual. Chocolate cake is effective for celebrating a birthday, but perhaps not for losing weight.

When we subtract the judgment of good and bad, we add the recognition of our own perspective. This is beneficial in several ways, as we shall see.


Is a spider bad or ugly?
Is a spider bad or ugly? | Source

A weed is a plant out of place

We call poison ivy bad, but it is a perfectly fine plant. We just don't want it growing in our yard.

There is a weed called bindweed, and it is terribly hard to get off a fence once it tangles it's way around it. It has another name, as well: morning glory, for it's lovely blue-violet flowers.

I was bitten by a poisonous spider, and my leg was crippled for six months. I might have lost it. But I don't blame the spider. The spider was just being a spider. It's unfortunate we collided the way we did.

Nothing is bad or evil

Some people say that killing is bad. I'm a pacifist, but I don't believe that. I do believe that it is never a beneficial choice to kill a person, and that animals should be killed only when necessary. But I don't call killing "bad."

In fact, killing has it's place. I think that place is in the immune system. I'm really glad that my immune system kills millions of bacteria each day. When the immune system fails, it leads to a really gruesome death in about 48 hours. (Look up the symptoms of the ebola virus, if you really want to gross yourself out.)

So no thing, or action, is bad or wrong. And thinking of good and bad does us no good at all.

Yet it is still really important, and really valuable, to decide what is right for us, and what is right.

Making ourselves the judge

To judge is to label something bad or wrong, or calling it good or wonderful. It can be a moral judgment, calling something evil, or an aesthetic judgment, calling it ugly, or a judgment about health, calling the thing sick or sickening.

But what ties it all together is that, when we judge, we are applying the label of "good" or "bad" to the thing, to the object of our attention.

We hurt ourselves when we do this. For those of you with a Jewish or Christian bent, consider that, when we judge, we are violating the first commandment. It is not what we say, but rather, that we claim we know what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. We are setting ourselves up as a god before God. In humility, who are we to call anything that God allows to exist "bad," or "wrong"?

From a spiritual and psychological perspective, we are giving up self-awareness, which is essential for all growth and healing. In claiming we are right, we are giving up the chance to be wrong, which is the chance to grow and learn.

But there is another option. It may not be healthy to declare what is right and what is wrong, but it is very healthy to declare "this is right for me."

Judge not . . . assess instead

I am asking only that we give up the claims that our judgments are right, and that they are about the object of our attention.

I'm not asking anyone to give up common sense. It is our right, our privilege, and an essential life skill to decide what is right and wrong . . . for us.

I suggest that assessment is a good term for deciding what is right and wrong for ourselves. Assessment is not judgment. I'm not calling spiders bad. I don't want to kill them. I just want to be more careful about not being bitten by one. I don't get rid of bindweed - I plant it to grow beautiful flowers and strangle an old ficus I'm trying to kill off. Not that I think the ficus is bad, just that, while it was a good choice for the guy who owned this house before me, it isn't right for me.

When we add those two words - those two magic words - "for me," we take away the sting of judgment. We own responsibility for our choices. And we free ourselves to make choices and live with the consequences. Letting go of judgment, we gain peace, power, and freedom. We gain peace because judgment is the root of anger, hatred, and all kinds of attack and distress. We gain power, too. How? As we make choices and live with the consequences, we naturally assess what is healthy and useful for us. We don't take in toxins. We don't weaken ourselves. And all the power of life flows through us. We gain freedom. How? Being free of judgment, we are free to see clearly, to assess, to decide, and to take action. Doing this, we create a life in which we make our dreams real.

Jesus said, "judge not, lest ye be judged." And he was right on - at least I think so. I find it healthy to let go of the tendency to judge, to let go of making declarations about things, to see the world less as black and white.

When we do, we cultivate acceptance.

For example, I am a pacifist. I admire Gandhi, and Aung Sanh Suu Kyi of Myanmar. But I also admire George Washington, who fought for freedom, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who stood up against Hitler, and Abraham Lincoln, who launched the Civil War. I believe great military leaders protect much of what is good in the world, and great spiritual leaders teach us how to build a better world.

We all need each other

So the pacifists need those who defend the good, even with violence. And the defenders of the good need the spiritual pacifists, or we end up being too sure that we know what is good, and defending what is evil.

Let us all see the value in all things, and appreciate it. Let us all see our interconnectedness, our inter-being.

When we do, we are free to make healthy choices for ourselves. In a democracy, we can choose righteous, effective leaders. In our foods, we can choose what is healthy and tasty. In our friends, we can choose those who make life more wonderful.

All in all, letting go of judgment pays off. In letting go of judgment, we open ourselves to wonder.

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Comments 20 comments

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ctbrown7 4 years ago

This certainly is an interesting hub with some useful insights; however, trying to dismiss evil in the world seems a bit much. I do believe that contextual information is important in making proper assessments, and I agree that we should be careful not to rush to judgement, but I would argue that assessments are judgments. That is where I am getting lost in your essay. Also, there is a difference between judging someone's actions as bad and saying a person is bad. Although I don't agree with some of your arguments, this was an interesting read.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you. I certainly recognize the existence of evil in the world, which I see as the active intention to cause harm on purpose. I suggest, however, that we embrace the evil-doer (which could be any of us), and even the evil. Fear and evil fight Love, but Love embraces fear and evil. It's a one-sided battle. Because Love never engages in a battle, it is ultimately victorious.

Let us live lives where we transform everything into Love.

KrisL profile image

KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

Great hub!

I'm reminded of a line in the bible (Deuteronomy) "Choose life that you and your children may live."

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, KrisL! And, in today's globally connected world, may we all choose life, that we and all our children may live on a peaceful and joyful planet we call home.

KrisL profile image

KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

You're welcome, Sid. I really like your brand new photos too: they bring home your point beautifully.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, KrisL. It felt really good to put the butterfly and the spider right next to each other.

promaine profile image

promaine 4 years ago from New York

Hi SidKemp. This is a deep and engaging hub on profound spiritual questions, and raises the big question of how we try to separate ourselves from someone (or some group) whom we label wrong or evil. What do you think of the idea in some spiritual traditions of "atonement": to make us "at one" with everything, including the damaging stuff that we like to externalize (as evil, as sin, as bad, as not-me)? Can this mind-set lead to activism (i.e., to doing something about this stuff)?

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Not all "atonement" includes the idea of becoming at one with evil. Many see it as becoming at one with the Divine only. But I agree with you. I think that being not separate from evil, recognizing it within us, is one half of powerful activism. The other is to connect with the energy of vow, the recognition of the deep intention to live in a harmless and beneficial way. When we fully connect both with our own harmful or evil tendencies and also our vow to be purely beneficent, we live the dynamic of starting where we are and actively actualizing our True Nature. That's activism!

lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Where do I begin? The concept in this piece rings true for me and yet, I have an internal conflict with the idea that there is no evil or wrong. Personally, I understand that it is not my place nor my desire to judge but rather to forgive. That, I am capable of. However, when I consider the elderly woman who is beaten and robbed in her own home by strangers who broke in and stole the $10.00 left from her social security check, it feels "wrong" to me. When the young woman is sexually abused, beaten and left to die by her boyfriend, it feels "wrong" to me. I can forgive, but I do not know how to not think these things are "wrong". What am I missing?

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks for your question, IRC. The place to begin is with "I think" and "I feel." It works to say, "I think this is wrong" and even, "by my definition, this is evil," or "this feels evil to me." The error lies not in the notion of "right" and 'wrong," but in taking our own subjective view out of the expression, and claiming that what we know about right and wrong is absolute knowledge. That is arrogance that leads to error, and, in the Biblical religions, putting ourselves up as a false god before God, violating the first commandment.

Genuinely acknowledging our own views and feelings from a place of humility is a very powerful place to begin.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"Nothing is bad or evil"- Great! I agree. Then, why is judging suddenly bad? Haha ...

"To judge is to label something bad or wrong". Not really (lol), to judge means: "1 to hear and determine a case. 2. to give sentence. 3. to form or to give an opinion. 4. to come to a conclusion ...". So, we see here that we are speaking different languages. I knew this from before, I was just double-checking; can never be too sure.

I disagree with Jesus' methods. I agree with the intentions (who in their right mind wouldn't...) but from intention to result is a long way. Two thousand years and we are still acting like donkeys, or worse (not everyone obviously but too many of us in my opinion). I am not going into the pain that Christianity has brought the world, not the place here but souls are still suffering. So, I will abstain from preaching the Bible at large, although I do think it is a good book when perceived with clarity and with good intent.

"In claiming we are right, we are giving up the chance to be wrong" - If from my perspective something is right then, it's right. Does it have to be right from your perspective too? Not necessarily. That is why, almost like a broken record I keep going on and on about: "What is good for me is not necessarily good for You and vice-verse." Yet You said it too: "this is right for me." So, it's all good to judge. Haha!! Nice play. : )

You sent me back to the dictionary with "assessment", this time around.

"Assessment": "1 (an) estimation, appraisal. 2 the act of assessing. 3 the amount assessed" - This is a word which seems to be intended for making statements regarding money-matters or things of monetary value.

I do agree with You, fully may I add that we should always be aware that any statement we make is always a case of "for me". We use perception and each one of us always speaks from a certain perspective. Everyone's perspective differs. This is pretty basic stuff ...

I am happy a pacifist still values the Warriors of the Light. I was under the wrong impression that for them fighting is altogether bad. Here, I am not implying that Washington was a Warrior of the Light - nor do I think Lincoln was one. If he was, he would not have been assassinated.

"Let us all see our interconnectedness, our inter-being." - I pray on that.

Our intent is the same but our ways differ.

May Light always guide You.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Here is the contradiction - just came across it ... I knew I saw it somewhere lol: "Because Love never engages in a battle" - that is from an earlier comment of yours yet, "the pacifists need those who defend the good, even with violence" (from the article).

"I can not only accept things as true but I can also accept things as necessary."

Cheers! : )

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Mr. Happy. Actually, I think that our ways probably do not differ much at all, just our language. I've chosen to use carefully refined definitions of "judge" and "assess" that are not in the dictionary. This is a common practice in philosophy and science. ("Light" in physics is very different than the ordinary definition of "light," for instance. Anyone who fully recognizes that our own statements must, indeed, be our own holds a position very close to mine.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

My view here is that love never engages in a battle, and never needs to. The other side may see it as a battle, and may feel attacked, but we, in Love, do not attack.

And yet those who have not arrived at this deeply pacifist position are still working towards the good. The "defenders of the good" (I'm thinking, say, of Eisenhower) have a role to play as they learn. In living that role, they keep people like Gandhi alive. And people like Gandhi give people like Eisenhower something to live up to. It's a complex relationship in the journey of this world. I see it as an unfolding process, not as a contradiction. Gandhi and Eisenhower are on the path of peace what a master blacksmith and a journeyman blacksmith are on the path of ironwork.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I have spent most of my university time and continued on afterwards (to this day) to study philosophy; metaphysics especially so, I am aware of language issues. Hence, I am here commenting.

I find it detrimental to speak in tongues.

When discussing issues relating to the benefit of all humanity, I would like as much clarity as possible, for the good of Us All. I seek a philosophy which we can All understand and try to use a language which other people may understand as well - hence, I refer to the dictionary - that is a common ground for us to understand each other. If we all invent our own dictionary and words, what success will we have in understanding each other? Or is understanding each other not a priority and style, tone and effect are our main priorities in how we are expressing ourselves? If You remember, I asked You not long ago why You have manifested yourself into whom You are ...

Light is clear - I follow Light as any Warrior of the Light does. I apologize if I may be too forthcoming.

May Wakan Tanka walk with You.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

So, basically a pacifist sits and watches while others fight for him/her? Haha!! Now if that's not clever, I don't know what is.

LOL I love this conversation. Thank You very much! : )

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Again, my friend, we see two sides of the same coin. True, the dictionary is more universal. But natural language is inherently vague.

Wakan Tanka walks with us all. May I walk humbly and proudly with Wakan Tanka.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Actually, there are two types of pacifists.

My favorite type is like Gandhi and Thich Nhat Hanh - they sit there and get the crap beaten out of themselves.

My second favorite type follow the T'ai Chi Code: Self-defense with minimal violence is acceptable: run before blocking, block before striking, strike before breaking, break before maiming, maim before killing, kill before being killed. These pacifists won't hurt you, but you'd still better not mess with them!

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I just came around again to thank You for the conversation and to leave You with a song I like and You may end-up liking it too, who knows ...

"Together Now":


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks for the happy rap!

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