Do you consider yourself a judging person? Do you make assumptions about others based on their circumstance, attitudes and appearances?
In my younger days I would argue that I was nonjudgemental...I tried to accept everyone for who they were. I didn't judge based on race, income or religion. Blah ti Dah Blah
In reality, I judged all the time. I don't think I set out to be this person basking on the knowledge pedestal casting my wisdom around, but the truth of the matter was that I did think I owned all the answers in my wise 20 year old brain.
I'm a teacher. When I first began my career, I like many recent graduates thought many children in special education classes simply misbehaved because their parents didn't discipline them properly. I could not fathom the idea of a parent placing their child on medication to merely get them to "act right". I was appalled. I truly felt that it was a cop out for parents to place the blame of their poor parenting skills somewhere other than where it squarely belonged, their shoulders.
Some of those judgements are valid in individual instances, but I made the blanket assumptions for all. Luckily, God blessed me with a child who suffers from ADHD. I say luckily because I have tremendous faith in God's plan, and out of all the kids in the world He could have chosen for me, I got the son that is mine.
Maybe I don't possess the greatest parenting skills, and I know that you should constantly learn. But I had a son that was once on Adderall, and we constantly work on behavior, impulsivity, acting out and all those other annoying habits that drive people crazy. I must add that he's improved so much in the last year, and he no longer takes the medication for which I'm thankful. I can't tell you how many books I've read. If there was a behavior and discipline plan, I tried it at one point. I tried supplements and changes in diet, and everything before resorting to the medication after 2 years. But having your 9 year old telling you he wants to die because everyone at school, including the teachers hate him...well then that changes your perspective a little.
Now, I am enlightened, and no longer blaming all the parents for every ill that befalls their children. It's a controversial subject. Feel free to judge, but I made the best decision for us. One parent I know said, "If parents were perfect, then our kids wouldn't need God." I love that, and with that said, my son definitely needs God. I am better person now, and a much more empathetic teacher because of this life experience.
Another great example is when I used to not fully comprehend how a woman could live with physical or mental abuse. Why would you keep going back for more? Especially if you had a job, or family and a means out? How could a woman be so weak? To be honest it almost irritated me at times to hear the cycle of a woman going back to her abuser.
Here again life helped me answer that little question with a second husband who appeared normal to the outside world, but was full of anger and control on the inside. And while I was lucky in the fact I wasn't really physically abused, the mental angst was fairly substantial. How do you get so weak, I asked? You inch there slowly a little bit each day, making excuses, hoping and praying for a change until you wake up one morning with no recollection of the eyes staring back at you in the mirror. And you realize that when he tells you how pathetically weak you are...that he is exactly right.
I am fortunate in the regards that I got out and now recognize that woman who smiles back at me today in the mirror. But I no longer cast doubts on those in their own predicaments. And when I cross someone in that awful place, I try to offer hope and strength, not criticism.
So what about you? When you see a person holding a sign for food, do you think they could just do better if they WANTED to work. Do you think they may be a con like the ones shown on 20/20? Or do you have empathy? Do you think that given their circumstances that you would never stoop so low, or that your character wouldn't suffer a few dents?
What about the rich guy who passes you in his flashy convertible? Do you automatically assume that he must be a snob or a jerk? It goes both ways. Or the lady who cuts in front of you without her blinker...is she automatically an idiot? Maybe she just heard some earth shattering news and is having trouble concentrating. Or how about the kid with the saggy clothes and the baseball cap on sideways? Is he presumably a thug?
I still catch myself from time to time, but I really try to watch it. I always ask God for forgiveness because mainly he just always has to show me the lesson, and I've already lived through a couple. I'd rather just choose to stop passing judgement and not have to learn from the field trip.
It's a challenge. In one day, how many times do you presume to know someone's character or personality simply by a small observation, but without really getting to know them as a human being? Make a guess, and then see how close to that number you are at the end of the day. I'm working on bringing my two numbers closer together, and lower in general.