Every one of us gets to see and meet a whole lot of people every single day. The first thing we do, eventhough we might not always be aware of it, is to check, scan, and evaluate the person we have in front of us. One day, I realised I was skipping the checking-scaning-evaluating process to immediately jump into another much nastier one : judgement. All of the sudden I realised how JUDGEMENTAL I had become and how UNFAIR and MEAN my « with-judgement-filled » thoughts could turn out to be, about someone I didn’t even know.
What the hen is JUDGEMENT?
Judgement has a very broad meaning. We have the knowledge filled judgement: « to form, give or have as an opinion, or to decide about something or someone, especially after thinking carefully« . This is the legitimate process that enables us to have an opinion, to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong. We NEED that to be able to have a mind of our own, to be independant in our way of thinking, so this one is crucial! BUT, we also have the ignorance-filled judgement leading to condemnation (« this is only bad », « this can only be wrong »): « to express a bad opinion of someone’s behavior, often because you think you are better than them ».
Today, I want to understand what leads me (or us, if you feel honnest enough to admit it) to being such a judgmental jerk(s). What triggers it? What does it take to stop and clear up the mess?
- A REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE
To get started, I want to share an example of my own life, because I believe that authentic experiences can teach us more than stupid, common, useless sentences like « Don’t judge. » Because WE ALL KNOW it’s bad and unfair, right? It doesn’t not help us further, but makes us angry enough to punch in a ball! And it closes our ears rather than opening them. So…
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to a country I’ve never been before, set on another continent. The point of the journey was to meet up with other young adults of different countries to developp skills regarding work with multicultural teenaged groups. We were a group of 3 different nations and spent one week together. During the first days, we got to know each other better, to laugh and connect. On one afternoon, our task was to gather around as 3 « national groups » (all the French people together…) and to pick out in 10 minutes, 3 majors national heroes of each country represented in the bigger group (3 heroes of our country, and 3 heroes for the two other countries). Every « national group » had to do the same task.
After that, we gathered together as one big unity , and every small « national group » had to present the 3 national heroes they thought represented each country and the reasons why One group started, it was funny and innocent, then the second group arrived in front of us and shared their thoughts. At one moment they talked a country which is NOT their home and said that they « considered a terrible and famous dictator as one of the country’s greatest national heroes, because he was a great leader, defended his country and built it up again. »
My ears were bleeding. I was so sure I had misunderstood SOMETHING. It could simply not be possible that people with a sense of common decency could say such a thing, right? When it finally occured to me that they had actually ment every single word they had said, I was so so so FURIOUS and OUTRAGED I thought I was going to pull every single hair out my head (and John-Clarence knows how many they are!!)
At that moment, my mind shut down out of anger, as I began to be overclouded by judgemental thoughts, leaving aside all the amazing bonding moments we had shared together. A few minuts later, my team presented their thoughts on national heroes, and one in particuliar (about the people’s country who actually freaked me out) regarding a president who we viewed as a hero because he had granted the independance for his country. All of the sudden, this same group explained how shocked they were that we had chosen this president-guy as a hero because he has actually done terrible things.
At this stage, I remember telling myself: « okay, lady, BREATHE » (yes, I call myself « lady » sometimes because it’s funny and because no one else has my permission to do so)and THINK. »
Clap: end of the scene
2) BREATHE n’ THINK
Breathe and think. Realising that they were probably almost as much outraged by what my team had said, than what I was by what they had said, enabled my mind to open again. I asked myself the following questions:
-What was their intention? What education did they receive? What do they learn at school? How does their culture influence their way of thinking?
Then, I realised that they had ment no harm in their sayings, didn’t measure the impact of it, and that their opinion was most likely impacted by some cultural values and things I didn’t know about. I still strongly disagreed and was still completely shocked by it BUT I was no longer judgemental and closed but I wanted to try to understand what made them say that. I was ready to discuss, to share.
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, not really…Last Christmas, I actually bought a brilliant T-shirt for my dad. It was written on it: « PARACHUTES ARE LIKE MINDS, THEY WORK BETTER WHEN THEY’RE OPEN. » I believe this to be very accurate. I think that I made A DECISION, whether to remain stuck in my anger and negative judgement, or to MAKE THE BEST OF IT and to talk in order to know and understand more. I believe it’s a choice I have to make in every single situation, and you probably too.
Because I chose to open my mind instead of judging (in the second part at least), I understood that the people that had actually freaked me out so much, had actually ment the dictator asbeing an important historical figure, and that the word « hero » in French was translated into « historical figure » in their own language. I realised how important communication was to clear a conflict, that turned out to be rather a heavily unfortunate misunderstanding. Eventhough, my strong disagreement remained regarding the way they had justified their choice. Howewer, we can chose TO RISE ABOVE.
At work, one day I met a woman who was very unfriendly. Angry, I immediately labeled her as an arrogant, self-centered, nasty, yes, let’s spill it out, bad person. Later on, a colleague told me that she had a very serious desease and that as a young mother she had lost many of her babies. Oh man! Did I feel bad! Circumstances do not always justify every one’s behavior but they can give so much insight in order to understand, and evaluate, rather than immediately closing the door!
3) WORK LIKE A PARACHUTE!!!
Again, a situation where I realised that my ignorance and lack of knowledge had taken hold of my better judgement. Because I often don’t keep my knowledge updated, so I end up being a high leveljerk. Now I try to BREATHE and THINK.
What is this person’s life story? What is her/his family background? What is her/his intention? What kind of education did she/he receive? What life situation is she/he currently facing? What’s in her/his past that might still influence her/his course of action? Why is she/he acting like that?
WHO AM I TO JUDGE? WHAT GIVES ME THE RIGHT TO DO SO? WHO DO I ACTUALLY THINK I AM? I’m responsible for my own bussiness, and I should only mind my own business, unless it’s my duty to mind or if someone asks me to get involved into theirs! It is so important for me to share these thoughts with you,when I realise how much I lack of mercy, grace, kindness and respect for the people around me.
We need to see DIVERSITY instead of DIFFERENCES ! Differences divid but diversity connects, bonds and unifies ! By judging without knowledge and information, I missed and miss out on people: because I get so focused with what is wrong or bad, I don’t see what’s beautiful, nice, unique and remarkable about this person. Moreover, I could miss out on additional moments filled with kindness, compassion, respect, truth, authenticity, friendship! And I missed and miss out on myself: Is this really who I want to be? No! I want to be full of knowledge,kindness, encouragement, mercy, grace, respect, love, for people I know and for those I don’t!
I want to lift people up, encourage them, see the strength, beauty, abilities in them! I want to be a wall-destroyer and a bridge-builder! It’s a DECISION! We’re certainly not perfect but we should be confident and bold enough to try! Again and again! To be wall-destroyers and bridge-builders! To work just like PARACHUTES! In being open!
WILL YOU BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE A PARACHUTE? I DARE YOU!