Twice this past week I've read, in two different books, that judgment gives you power over people, or at least it gives you the illusion of power, and that's why you should never do it. I don't believe either of those statements.
First off, Jesus commands us to judge. Idiots, or lazy people, or narcissists, or sybarites read "Judge not..." and then black out the rest of the chapter because they satisfied their craven desire to avoid judgment. But if you actually read it, and you're not using one of the modern pussy "translations", what Jesus is telling us is not to judge others by a different standard than the one we use to judge ourselves. He flat out says "Don't be a hypocrite" (a Greek word that only a Greek-speaking audience would understand, indicating that Greek was Jesus' native language, which makes perfect sense since it was the official language of the whole eastern Mediterranean for the previous three hundred years and the language spoken in all the big cities where Jesus worked), not "Don't judge anyone under any circumstances ever".
Later in Matthew Jesus says if you see your brother trespass against you tell him so he can correct his action.
Then we have in John where Jesus says to "Judge righteously".
And Paul continues reasserting the need for right judgment by rebuking the Corinthians for not judging one of their own who had sinned.
It becomes a matter of who am I going to believe, Jesus or some pop culture writer? Not that difficult a choice.
The whole idea of not judging comes from the perverted anything goes "If it feels good do it" mentality that poisoned a generation in the 60s and has been used to brainwash children in the schools for the past 30 years. And the people who say not to judge almost always do so ironically, because they are judging while they admonish judging! The statement is self-defeating, like the assertion that Absolute Truth does not exist. If you judge people for judging then you are the very thing you allege (it's a lie) to despise, which is itself a judgment and is itself what Jesus rebuked in the part of the verse you blacked out!
And second, I don't think judging others puts you in a position of power, at least perceived, over that person. Not if you're using right judgment as you are commanded to. If you're judging everyone, including yourself, by the same standard then how does that put you in a position of power? You are also among the group being judged, and the standard of judgment is not based on your own caprice but on what is True.
I know I fall short of the standards by which I judge. Does that mean I'm placing myself in a position of power over myself? Does that even make sense? How can I have power over myself other than through willed action? In order to exert power there must be a self and an other, but if there is just a self then there can be no exertion of power, and no relationship of any kind.
If you see someone with an untied shoe and you say "Your shoe's untied," you don't have power over that person, you just have a different perspective, and you're using that perspective to help that person. That's compassion, not power. You would want the other person to do the same for you. That's right judgment. If you're doing something stupid and self-destructive you would want, at least subconsciously, someone to tell you, just as you would tell someone who you see doing something self-destructive, out of compassion, not power.
People today have the wrong view of sin. Sin is not about angering God or about anyone holding power over anyone else, it's natural law. If you do this, you will get this. If you try to unbalance the universe the universe will take steps to rebalance itself. And you can never win. Sin should be thought of like causality. If you smoke heroin you destroy your body and have to face the physical consequences regardless of whether you're a good person or not (unless you're Keith Richards, then your body is indestructible); if you rape children you destroy your soul and you face the metaphysical consequences. I picked a particularly obvious example, but it gets subtler than that. Sin says that actions (and thoughts) have consequences because the mind works in a certain way and garbage accumulates over a lifetime and there's no way to escape that no matter how good we are at ignoring it or rationalising it away. At death we are exposed to the clear light of Absolute Reality, and it becomes impossible to lie to ourselves. Beliefs go out the window and then the shadow has free reign to torment you mercilessly.
It's true from an Absolute perspective to say not to judge, but that's because 1. from the perspective of the Absolute NOTHING is happening, there is no manifestation, so there is literally nothing to judge, and 2. the people who say not to judge aren't speaking about the Absolute, they're sybarites who don't want to feel bad about smoking crack and having lots of anonymous sex. 1 out of 1,000 people who say not to judge even believe in the Absolute. The other 999 are materialists who believe that when you die you rot, in which case judging still wouldn't be wrong because there would be no truth at all. Not only would judging not be wrong, if you took the view of the materialists to its logical conclusion, but absolutely nothing would be wrong, including raping and murdering the person who told you not to judge just for the lulz, and furthermore there would be no free will so it wouldn't even make sense to speak of right and wrong anyway.
There's a reason why the noble eightfold path begins with right views and moves on to right speech, right action, and right livelihood. If we just take a purely Absolute view when looking at spiritual practice (like the Course, which is 100% Absolute and ignores the relative completely), then we can say not to judge. It can be done, just as it's possible to climb a sheer cliff, but taking the steepest possible path isn't very useful if your aim is to get as many people to Absolute realisation as possible. That's why great teachers throughout history have given us morality, which is relative bodhicitta, because our minds have been trapped in the relative world for so long that we need relative practices to break down our barriers. We need to exhaust the relative mind so the clear light of Absolute awareness can shine through. Morality does not get us enlightenment, because nothing can. Nothing can take us to where we always already are. Morality serves as a means of making us more likely to see that we already are enlightened. Morality reduces the obstacles within our relative minds and the relative world.
You can say that judgment makes no sense from the Absolute perspective, but you can't build a society in the relative world based on the Absolute. Talk of judgment, sin, and morality have meaning in the relative world. They are relative practices for the relative world, because the alternative is close to impossible. We can take the Absolute view all we want, but until we are fully enlightened we are still at the mercy of our relative mind, and we will still have to deal with fear, doubt, regret, shame, etc. And until we are enlightened we still need judgment in order to overcome the relative mind.