Everyday Is a Jury of our Peers

Herb garden meets Stonehenge. Photo by Lorna Tedder.

From a young age, I was taught not to judge others, even though the people who preached did little to practice it.  Not judging was one of the earliest lessons I was taught in church…a church that did not allow anyone of another race, religion, or “alternative lifestyle” to darken its doors, and was quite adamant about a woman’s place as well.  Judging not has always seemed to be a spiritual lesson, even among other spiritualities, that we should aspire to, yet fail at daily.

People LIKE to judge.  Especially when they feel superior to the person they are judging!

And suddenly, as a US citizen with a driver’s license, I’m picked for jury duty and I quickly note how many other people suddenly do NOT want to judge anyone else.  How many excuses can one person come up with to “get out of jury duty”?  I had originally asked to be excused months before because the trial would have decimated my plans for Winter Solstice and our perfectly timed Burning Bowl Ritual.  I was happy to be called any other time, and I was called back several times after that, with several postponements from the court, before I finally was selected for a personal injury case four months later.

It was…enlightening…and not in a good way.  I walked out feeling tainted and disgusted.  I had done my duty and had sat in judgment of my peers, but my judgment wasn’t complete.  I was not allowed by law to consider certain things I observed, and other testimony was stricken and we were told we couldn’t consider it.  This, for me, was agony.  I had to make a decision I did not fully agree with because I had to base my judgment on a limited number of facts.

And yet, we do that every day, don’t we?   I know I’ve had people judge me on a handful of  two or three facts.  These are not good or bad, just…facts.   These are facts I will not deny are true.  They’re facts I’ve never hidden.  They’re just not all the facts, not the whole truth.  In some cases, I’ve refused to give people all the facts because it’s none of their business.  In others, I’ve never been asked for facts I would freely give.  It’s just too easy to judge others based on a few interesting kernels of truth and ignore or not be aware of so many other facts that would make a difference–or might–in the outcome of the judgment.  You can’t help but put yourself in the place of the plaintiff or the defendant, based on how the facts you’re presented correlate to your own life.

So, after being asked in a court of law to judge–based on a smattering of facts alone–and render a verdict, I’ve become acutely aware of how many people willingly judge without more than a scant idea of what’s really going on. 

Maybe this is why our spiritual teachers tell us not to judge:  only the judge has all the facts.