Modern culture practically demands that we have strong opinions on everything, including people we don’t know. Before you pound your gavel, consider these heartfelt questions about judging others.
These days we are regularly bombarded with other people’s opinions about what everybody else is saying, doing, and wearing. On social media, for example, everyone is judging someone, and everyone thinks their two cents is worth far more than that. There are even entire websites devoted to ridiculing what people wear to the market.
In short, we’ve become a culture that thinks our job is to evaluate and judge everyone else’s behavior and choices. And what once was a rumor in the neighborhood is now public knowledge, cast in stone on the Internet forever.
The Harm to Self and Others
The problem with all this judgment is the wounding it causes. Some people are able to brush it off unafflicted, but most of us tend to allow the judgments of others to sink into our hearts and painfully impact us. As judgment and the public sharing of every assessment is on the rise, the world is becoming a less and less safe place to be.
The more unsafe people feel, the more protective they get. This can lead to people not sharing their gifts and talents out of fear, thus robbing the world of up-and-coming talent. This unsafe environment can also lead people to harm themselves, harm others, or both.
This issue is so systemic that it requires a monumental effort to turn it around. The reality is, however, that you can only really change yourself. So, to help you edit your thoughts, words, and actions, consider these questions about judging others.
Is the other person’s behavior actually your business? Ask yourself this question before you start judging someone (verbally, silently, or in a comment or post. It comes down to an issue of responsibility. If what someone is doing is not hurting you or anyone else, leave it alone. Truly, what someone wears is not your business. How much someone eats, what they have in their shopping cart, what kind of car they drive, who they date, how much they weigh, what religion they belong to, what country they are from—none of these are anyone’s business but their own. Set yourself free from trying to control what everyone else does with your opinion of them. (It doesn’t work, by the way!)
This practice is harder when it’s someone you love, and you feel what they do is your business. When it is your child it may be an opportunity to teach, rather than judge. When it is your spouse, it may be an opportunity to accept rather than judge. In some cases, it may be an opportunity for you to do something different, but simply judging someone isn’t going to change anything.
[Read: Judgment as sublimated self-criticism? ]
Is your opinion the truth? Somehow our society has lost perspective on the difference between opinion, beliefs, and the truth. Ultimately, one has nothing to do with the other. Just because you believe something doesn’t mean it is true. Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean it’s justified. Before you start judging someone, take the time to evaluate the difference between your opinion and the truth. Soon you will discover that a huge majority of what you believe is only your opinion; there are plenty of other people who don’t believe the same thing—likely including the person you are judging.
Is your opinion closer to a hypothesis than the truth? Our world (both internal and external) would improve dramatically if we learned to view our thoughts as hypotheses rather than truths and then took the time to evaluate the evidence and consider other hypotheses that may be more purposeful.
Does it matter? This is one of the fundamental questions about judging others: Does what the other person is doing really matter to anyone but them? Does your opinion really matter to anyone but you? If you truly feel that your opinion matters or could improve the situation, take a deep breath and align with your commitment for the betterment of all involved. I have found that my opinions are far better received when they are shared with love and concern, rather than judgment.
Are your words, thoughts, and actions purposeful or beneficial? Will your words or thoughts of judgment actually bring about change or only inflict pain? This is a good one to ponder not only when considering what you might actually do or say, but in asking whether it’s even beneficial to spend your time thinking judgmental thoughts.
Do you have compassion? When we actually take the time to discover what another person is or has been going through, what they are thinking, how they are feeling, we discover our first impressions or opinions were inaccurate. When we take the time to inquire before judging someone, it is time well spent.
We are all custodians of each other’s hearts. We need to take the time to remember that our words and thoughts are going to land on someone else’s heart. We must take responsibility for what we say and do.
Start with one day. Ask yourself these questions about judging others when you catch yourself forming strong opinions about them. When we each master our own thoughts and behavior, we will discover the power we have to actually change the world.
Judgment as sublimated self-criticism? Keep reading to learn more.