I have been asking myself all week, is there a difference between having an opinion and making a judgment? While I don't [want to] consider myself a judgemental person, I definitely have some fairly strong opinions.
See if you understand what I mean...during the past week, twice in fact, I came upon television shows about little girls competing in glamour pageants. One show was an in depth look at the event through the eyes of Lisa Ling (Our America, Oprah Network), the other was the show "Toddlers in Tiaras" which airs on TLC. I don't usually spend a lot of time in front of the television, and wouldn't normally watch either one of those programs, but the topic peaked my interest so I became a captive viewer.
In my opinion the idea of parading children, of any age, across a stage to be assessed purely on their outward appearance (which incidentally has been wildly enhanced with makeup/spray tan/fake nails/hair extensions) and their ability to perform under intense scrutiny could be considered a form of child abuse. Now, I realize this is a very strong statement, and I am 100% certain there would be a fair number of parents who would love to argue my position. On the other hand, I also believe there are a [larger] number of parents who would agree with me that, at least on some level, the practice of glamour pageants for children has real potential to harm the child's self-esteem and confidence. (Whether they "win" or lose, there is impact).
Now, I said IN MY OPINION, because that's just what it is. I am stating my position on the pageant itself, the motives behind it, and the psychological ramifications to the contestants. I am not making a judgment about the parents who choose to involve their children in this activity. In their defense, it was evident from both shows I watched, these moms and dads very much love their children. I am certain, because of the power of editing, that I did not see the whole picture of these pageants. And, being the optimist that I am, I have convinced myself that the parents are doing what they feel is the best they can do to help their children learn about putting their best foot forward (even when they clearly don't feel like it), developing their competitive edge and seeing value in themselves. What I question is the motive behind traipsing across a stage at the age of three trying to look like your twenty-five. What potential impact will this have on the way these kids see themselves?
To me this begs the question: where does opinion end and judgment begin? It seems to me that opinions can slide very easily into judgment. In fact, when I looked up both words on dictionary.com, the definitions were eerily similar. I found this perplexing because, again, it is not my desire to project myself as one who is judgmental, but I do have lots of opinions...as do most people I know.
As far as judgments go, I have become all too keenly aware of them in the past few years, so I try to avoid them whenever possible. Life experience has the ability to open your mind and change your previously held beliefs, and for the most part I think it's a good idea to reserve judgment about other people's journeys. In my own life it might look like this: Five years ago, upon hearing that a teenager I knew had issues with drugs or alcohol my first response would likely have been, "what kind of parents does that kid have." On some plane I believe God saw that shortcoming and allowed me the opportunity to experience the other end of that viewpoint. Not as a punishment, but because I firmly believe we are experiencing this life to learn lessons. As a result of my personal situation, now if I hear about a teen who has a drug/alcohol problem, I know that while it might have something to do with the parenting or home environment the child has experienced, it is not solely the parent's fault. You see, I have learned there are a lot of loving, responsible parents in the world who have children with addiction issues.
In the end, I think one can have an opinion without making a judgment. To me being judgmental about someone or something without having all the facts is wrong...even with all the facts it is still not my place to do so. Afterall, who am I to judge someone else's journey? Or, maybe it is merely a matter of degree. For instance, it IS okay to have an opinion about something [or someone], but not okay if you were to judge them in order to feel better about yourself. What do you think?