Now that I have some time, I spend some time perusing the internet reading interesting articles. I recently read an article titled, We’re all the Same. Basically, the article says we as humans are quick to judge others. It makes bold statements like:
- Let’s face it. We all do it. We judge.
- We like to label others and shove them into this box.
- We don’t like ”undefined” people.
- We assume we know who someone is based on our interactions and observations.
- Judging makes us feel safe and comfortable.
- It gives us a sense of control.
- But despite our best efforts to judge, we all know deep down inside, we can’t and shouldn’t really judge another person.
Now my initial reaction was, “Not me! I don’t judge people.” But who am I kidding? So I thought about it. Do I judge others or not? If I am honest with myself, the answer of course is “Yes”.
The year 2015 was a year of change for my wife and I. I retired from teaching. My eldest daughter moved to a different apartment which is closer to her work. My youngest daughter returned to university, so she is moved back to the city after living in the rural community she grew up in. And my son, who has been going to the local college, is moved to the city to continue his education at university. My wife is the only stable one (in more ways than one) as she is continuing with the same job.
So a few months ago, my wife and I were helping our eldest daughter find furniture for her new apartment. She had been getting some used stuff off of Kijji, an online garage sale site. She had looked at a media unit with an electric fire-place and decided to purchase it. She gave the young man $40 to hold it, and arranged to pick it up when I could bring up the truck. On a Saturday morning we arrived at this person’s apartment complex at the agreed upon time only to find that he was not there. My daughter texted him and called him only to discover his voice mail box was full. Being the Dad that I am, I immediately jumped to conclusions. As far as I was concerned this guy had ripped off my daughter. My daughter and wife, on the other hand, kept reminding me that maybe he had a family emergency or something. I, on the other hand, was convinced that he had swindled my daughter out of $40. After an hour of waiting and me “steaming” we left and continued with our day.
Now it turns out that this fine, young man did indeed have a family emergency. His explanation to my daughter alluded to perhaps a death in the family. This man felt very bad about the incident and returned my daughter’s $40 to her. I had totally misjudged the situation and the young man involved. Now I am the one feeling bad and guilty that I had so little faith in people. This was not the only time recently that I had jumped to conclusions and misjudged a situation.
As I mentioned earlier, I just retired from teaching. The school that I worked at submits a weekly newspaper column in the local papers. Well, at the end of June, I was all “bent out of shape” because my school (so I thought) did not even care that I was leaving after 26 years of service. They didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge my exit in the school column. I was feeling sorry for myself. I had convinced myself that my colleagues didn’t even care that I was leaving.
The next week the local papers arrived at our house and I my wife pointed out that I, and the other colleagues that retired with me, were acknowledged in the school column. Lesson learned (I hope); Do not be so quick to judge people and situations. Once again, I felt bad and guilty that I had so little faith in my colleagues. I know I could just blame it on “human nature”, but that is still not an excuse.
As a former school teacher I can recall numerous occasions where I prejudged students based on hearsay around the staffroom, only to discover that my experiences with those students were different from the prejudgements. It is so important to resist judging.
So, what is wrong with judging? I’m sure someone is wondering. The late Earl Nightingale, an American radio personality, writer, speaker and author who dealt mostly on the subjects of human character, once said, “When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.” That is so true! Judging others is about our need to feel safe and comfortable. When we judge others we feel better about ourselves because judging others occurs when we believe we are better than the people we’ve judged. Really, we have no right to judge anyone unless we know everything about that person, which is impossible. There is a native American proverb that says, “Don’t judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” As I learned from my experience with the young man who I believed conned by daughter out of $40, you never really know what is going on in that person’s life, so as in my case, most often our judgements are based on ignorance or misinformation.
So remember, things are not always what you perceive them to be or believe them to be. Don’t be so quick to judge a situation. Michael J. Fox, best known for his role as Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movie trilogy, once said, “The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are.” He is right! I am going to try to follow Fox’s advice from now on, or at least that is the goal.