We constantly evaluate the world around us. Whether we want to admit it or not, the lens through which we view our world is tinted with many layers of assumptions, preconceived notions, and finally, judgment. We judge on a personal level, a societal level, and on a global level. We judge on varying degrees of consciousness. Some of our judgment is a product of our upbringing, which serves to shape the mold out of which we emerge. Some of it comes from external influences, such as friends, media, and authority figures. And the rest of it is very personal – judgments based on our own life experiences. We judge strangers immediately. We judge situations instantaneously. We decide if we like something or not in a matter of seconds. We evaluate others based on their material possessions. We make snap judgements based on someone’s race, religion, or the color of their skin. Many of us are programmed to accept some things as always good and some as inherently bad. We are trained to paste labels on everyone in the blink of an eye. We act on auto pilot to discern the good, the bad, the ugly. Tic, tac, toe. Judgment served.
I am not a very judge-y sort of person. It is not in my nature to pigeonhole people or stereotype contexts. From the time I was a young girl starting to make sense of the world around me, I would resist passing judgment on anyone and anything. All through school and college my friends jokingly referred to me as a saint of some sort, because I was the only one who would halt their judgments (entertaining and harmless as they may intend them to be) by interjecting and saying “Oh, come on guys, you don’t even know that person! What if…?” or “You have never been in that situation! What if…?”. My what-if scenarios always combatted whatever judgment they had been quick to arrive at by trying to make them think twice about their assessment of a complete stranger in a totally unknown setting. I know my friends never meant harm with their judgments, and in many ways, passing judgment seems inevitable. But, somehow, I was never a willing participant.
I couldn’t shake off that uncomfortable feeling that conclusions drawn up rapidly based on snap judgments had to be intrinsically flawed. How can we judge the words and actions of a complete stranger? Do we know anything about them – their background, their story, their life situation? Worse than that, what gives us the green light to act on those very judgments and alter our behavior towards them based on what we have judged? Do we really give so much merit to distorted perceptions and cultivated prejudices? Is it so important for us to pick a color for every individual, every single instance, every different situation? Do we have to label, tag, and categorize… everyone?
From what I’ve learned (and what I’ve always felt within me), the continuous urge to judge others is fully unwarranted. We hold no real knowledge of them as individuals and we certainly don’t have full awareness of what contexts they are operating within.
There are infinite possibilities of their actual backgrounds and intentions. What we see in the moment is just a slice of their day, a fraction of an action, and a small wagging of their tongue. It is by no means a proper representation of the reality they exist within. Yet we take the liberty to judge them, as if we know them. More often than not, our judgments will turn out to be wrong. (Not surprising.) But, in the meanwhile, we would have spent precious time contemplating, analyzing, and processing where we should slot them in our judge-y mind. We would have taken the effort to brand them (with, more often than not, derogatory labels) and we would have proceeded to sap our precious energy by wallowing in the negative repercussions of such unnecessary judgments.
Oh, what a total waste of time, energy, and… spirit.
Stop playing Supreme Judge to the general public. Put away your yardstick. Stop filling in the blanks when you don’t know the answers.
Just see people for who they are, not what they seem to be. Allow them the space to exist as they wish, not as you perceive. Refrain from cornering others and you won’t find yourself boxed in. It is okay to acknowledge that you just might not know everything about everyone. Looks can deceive, and first impressions can be misleading. Don’t put all your judge-y eggs in one basket; leave some room for errors, discrepancies, and inconsistencies. Be accepting of various possibilities. Celebrate the differences in people. Refrain from hiding in your safety net and shining a flashlight on every concealed surface, forcing an explanation of what it is.
Instead, enjoy the adventure of exploring the infinite possibilities of the unknown by actual immersion. Open your mind – and, more importantly, your heart – to the souls of the strangers around you. Look at them as distinct individuals, separate from their gender, age, the color of their skin, or the accent from their lips. They are not defined by their material possessions, their college degree, the passport they carry, or their religious beliefs. They are not the judge-y colors of black or white. (They are usually the forgiving shades of grey.)
I see the world with sparkling clarity simply because I choose not to judge. When we stop judging others by our personal scale, we start to lose the tint in our judgmental lenses. And the lesser the tint, the clearer we see.