We judge others by their actions. We judge ourselves by our intentions. Even with our best efforts, this creates in each of us a double standard.
We are interesting beings, us humans. We are all wired similarly and yet we are all unique. Human nature causes us to take comparable actions, to respond similarly to external influences, and to handle trauma and tragedies in similar fashions.
There is no one in the entire world who sees the world exactly as you do. Ponder that for a moment. Whether it’s your faith, your family, your friends, your occupation, your community involvement, or any other aspect of your existence, you’re the first of only one edition. You’ve heard the saying, “They broke the mold when you were born.” This statement is correct. No one else was created in your mold.
It’s always amazes me how children born from the same parents and raised in the same home turn out so differently. And I mean really different. In my job as an attorney I deal with countless family situations. Whether it’s estate planning, a probate, an adoption, a divorce, or any other matter that involves family, every family member is one of a kind and typically very diverse from one another.
Put the above side by side with the fact that each of us has our own opinions. We’re wired this way. Everyone has an opinion about everything. I can give you a topic and you’ll immediately have an opinion about it. Regardless of if your opinion is justified or not, you’re entitled to your opinion. It’s the result of where you are on your journey at this time.
Add to this the fact that we live in a country where it’s alright to openly share your opinions and you have an interesting mix of humans living their lives moving from one opinion to another while often vocalizing their thoughts. The opinions we hold are a key part of our judging.
Another paradox is the balance that goes on between encouraging a person to hold firm to their core beliefs while not judging others whose opinions are extremely different. This paradox is especially prevalent in today’s world.
I try to not judge the actions of others because I haven’t walked in the shoes of the other person, yet I fail regularly. There are countless people going through very difficult situations. They walk among us.
From the outside looking in, I don’t know all the history of a person that results in their current behavior. I can think less of them or I can try to understand how they got where they are today. Whether it is a person involved in a divorce or a poor working arrangement or an elderly person fighting change, if I have not walked their steps, I try not to judge solely based upon their actions.
Let’s apply this concept to leadership. Whether on a local, state, or national level, governmental leaders have to make decisions they feel are best for those they govern. I can openly criticize their decisions, but unless I gather the same information they relied upon, it’s easy for me to make my own self-serving decision without all the information they relied on.
Let’s apply this concept to a jury trial. Media tells us the issues in a national trial and the outcome and we can get angry or excited. We can say the jury missed it big time, but we did not sit day after day and listen to the evidence for two weeks or review the instructions given by the court to the jury. Had we sat where the jury did, we may have arrived at the same outcome. We judge the result without understanding or experiencing the journey.
What I’m saying is we’re quick to criticize others because of actions they take without seeking to understand why they truly take such actions.
The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” This is a very difficult verse to follow.
Can you go a full day without judging another? This would be an interesting exercise and I think we would all fail. We interact with a person for the first time. He or she is a mix of age, size, gender, skin color, hair style, accent, mannerism, word usage, facial hair, tattoos, and so on. Within seconds we are “sizing up” the other person.
Apply this reality with wise words from Mother Teresa, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Do you like to be judged? Do you like others saying critical things about you without knowing the whole story? Right or wrong, you know why you do what you do. You know your intentions. You would go crazy trying to convince all those who observe you that you have good reasons for all of your actions.
I like the saying, “At age 20 we worry about what others think of us. At age 40 we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60 we discover that they haven’t been thinking of us at all.”
We live in a country of freedom of opinion and freedom to judge. It’s a great country, America. You can have your opinion on everything under the sun and you can judge to your heart’s desire...including this column!
My challenge to you today is to raise your awareness of these concepts and how they interact. It’s alright to have core beliefs; in fact I would be concerned if you didn’t have any. It’s alright to hold firm to your beliefs even when those around you don’t share your beliefs or, if they do, they don’t adhere to them.
Have your own opinions, but recognize how they interact with your judging others.
If you must judge, be careful when you judge; especially if you are solely judging others by their actions. Recognize you may not understand their intentions or the journey they have walked.
Just a thought...
Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202-0850.