No one wants to feel judged by their friends. In fact, I’d argue that it is one of the core pillars of friendship that we don’t judge each other. “Being judgmental” is one of the worst critiques that can be leveled at us today—it stands in direct opposition to everything we want to be: progressive, accepting, tolerant, open-minded. I have always prided myself on being open to whatever my friends do, though recently, I was forced to evaluate exactly why that was. Was it really that I was just so evolved that I had no opinion on their decisions? Or was it that I knew that some of my own decisions were questionable and wanted to set a precedent of acceptance, preemptively shutting down any potential future critiques of my own behavior?
Very recently, an old friend of mine did something that I am sure was difficult for her. She judged me, and told me about it. For the sake of full disclosure: it had to do with my drinking. I’ve struggled with drinking as a coping mechanism for years. As anyone who has dealt with substance abuse can attest, it is too complex a relationship to even attempt to delve in to in a 400-words-or-fewer article, but, suffice it to say that alcohol has affected more of my life than it ever ought to.
At the time, I was furious. I called my other (equally alcoholic) friends to vent. I wrote her a long, bullet-pointed paragraph about why she had no right to judge me. When all else failed, I got drunk (of course) to feel better. And after all this, I finally came to terms with the truth: maybe, just maybe, my friend had a point. Maybe she wasn’t just calling me out to be mean, maybe she was genuinely worried, maybe she actually had a valid perspective.
It was a tough pill to swallow, but when I managed to wrap my head around the idea that sometimes what we call “judgment” is actually just “discernment”, I realized that if my friend hadn’t called me out, she wouldn’t have been doing her job as my friend. She would’ve been enabling me, promoting self-destructive behavior, putting her own ease and conflict-avoidance before her integrity. It is never fun to be on the receiving end, but I have learned the hard way that sometimes we don’t need a Yes-Man, we need an honest friend. And if that feels like judgement, so be it—if we can’t handle judgement, maybe we need to reevaluate what we’re doing.