I recently became involved in two separate incidents which have come into the public domain and though I wasn’t entirely surprised by people’s response to the incidents, I was shocked, angered and disturbed by the venom expressed by some people who didn’t know the principal actors, didn’t have a full grasp of all the facts but who went ahead to condemn and pass judgment on the people and the events.
The truth is that you are a judge and omni-knowest if you have ever looked at a person and wondered why they dressed the way they did or why they can’t keep their weight under control, or shuddered at the choices they made.
The advent of social media has, however, taken judging to new heights. It has created a new set of bullies who hide behind the cloak of anonymity to pour vitriol upon people they would otherwise have no access to.
It has set the stage for others to harass, abuse, victimize and condemn people because they hold contrary opinions.
It has laid open the views, character and personalities of people as it shows how intolerant we are of one another.
It is not news that we Nigerians have an uncontrollable urge to air our opinions on issues, whether or not we were asked or know anything about them. Not only do we air our unsolicited views, we are also quick to cuss and abuse anyone who disagrees with us. It appears we have forgotten how to speak without abusing, how to argue without being emotional, how to criticize without being sarcastic and condescending.
I agree that we cannot stop judging other people or events that come to our notice but it would be nice if we kept most of our opinions to ourselves.
Whilst our opinions may not be acknowledged or even come to the knowledge of the actors, the truth is that if they become aware of what is being said about them it will make their bad situation worse. No one wants to be called names, unfairly castigated or abused.
I know of people that have had to go off social media and even flee the country because of people’s biting and insensitive responses to their tragedies and situations.
We must ask ourselves about the wisdom of saying things just because we can say them or because we have a smart phone and data. We need to understand why we have the urge to contribute to issues that do not concern us, to air our opinions on matters that have nothing to do with us. We must get to a place where we resist the urge to make insensitive comments on things we read especially when we don’t have all the facts and don’t know the person’s concerned.
The truth is that most times our need to judge people especially when it’s done in harsh terms comes from our insecurities and an innate desire to be superior to the next person. We set ridiculously high standards for people without their consent and buy in and judge them on the standards we have established for them.
We need to consider our motives for judging people; most times it’s not because we want to correct them but because we want to shame, harass and castigate them. If we really want them to change for the better we will seek to understand the rationale for their behavior, empathize and cut them some slack afterwards, we also are not perfect.
Recognizing why we judge people
- Being mindful of the reasons why we judge. Why do we need to judge, what emotions are we dealing with when we critique others? Are the emotions based on our childhood hurts? Do we extrapolate our experiences on others? The sooner we start to recognize our judgmental behaviours and discover the true reasons behind them, the sooner we can deal with them, work on letting them go, and move on with our lives.
- Cutting ourselves and others some slack. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. I remember the first time I saw Late Jan Crouch the co- founder of TBN (The Trinity Broadcasting Network.) I totally couldn’t get over her pink hair, make up and lashes and it bothered me for a while until I realized that she was doing much more for the gospel than I could ever do and that humbled me. I learnt to look beyond her outer package and guess what? In understanding that some things didn’t matter, I now wear my hair red. Looking back I realized that I really was envious of was the fact that she didn’t conform to my picture of what a Christian Leader should look like and in not judging her, I became free to color my hair knowing it had nothing to do with my relationship with God or the message I represent.
- Understanding that no one is perfect and that everyone including yourself is dealing with imperfection at every stage of their lives.
- Accepting that we may not know everything about the person and situation. I remember a story I once read about perspectives. A man and his three children were on a train going from one part of a city to the country side. The three children were rather unruly, making noise, getting into fights and shouting. The man ignored them to the consternation of all the fellow travelers in their carriage. After some time had passed, an old lady gently asked him to exercise some control over the children stating that she had never seen such badly behaved children in her life. The man folded his newspaper with a sigh, apologized and told her that he had let the children run amok for a reason. They had just come from the cemetery after burying their mother, who was his wife and he thought that it was good they were showing some emotion rather than being the quiet and subdued children, they had been since their mother’s death. Immediately he told his story, the attitude of everyone on the train changed, the children’s behavior was still not right but all the passengers could understand it given the circumstances and because they were empathetic they stopped judging the children’s behavior.
Finally, Let’s give people the benefit of doubt, try to walk in their shoes, see things from their perspective and be compassionate. Let’s be human not judges.
“Those who judge will never understand and those who understand will never judge”- red soles and red wine.