Judging Others

Wed, 22 Jan 2014

One of the joys of writing a blog is the opportunity and challenge to think through, and gather my thoughts on topics that I care about.  You might think, from the fact I have a blog, that I have clear views I want to share - but in reality, what appears in my published version is often significantly different from what I thought I wanted to say.  The act of writing it down forces me to recognise unintended assumptions and weak logic, and hopefully come to a fairer conclusion.  For me it is definitely worth the time it takes to write each post.  

I’ve enjoyed writing about inequality for the past few posts, and I can guarantee I’ll be back onto it.  But in the meantime I had a few topics that needed some deep thought, so I thought they’d be the focus of my next few posts - I hope you’ll indulge me.  

It probably makes it even worse that I can’t remember what had angered me.  But I distinctly remember thinking: “I hate Neighbourhood Watch type people - they’re all so judgemental and hypocritical!”

To be fair to me, I realised within seconds the incredible hypocrisy in the statement.  But the fact is, I did think it.

The point of this confession is firstly, to highlight that I sometimes do, say or think things I later feel I shouldn’t have (a book I’m reading calls this the ‘Human Propensity to F*** Things Up’, which seems pretty appropriate).  And secondly, that despite spending so much of my time judging others, I don’t do it in a very rational (or fair) way.

We don’t know what other people are thinking when they say or do something.  So we usually just make an assumption.  That assumption will generally be more influenced by what we think of that person (including whether they are on ‘our side’) than on what they have said or done, or how likely any particular assumption is.

This contributes to and is in turn caused by political and social polarisation, in which those on the other side are malicious, inhumane, incompetent liars, while those on our side (including ourself) are demonstrating superhuman compassion and virtue whatever the outcome.  I only need to take a look at my Facebook feed to see this played out.

Isn’t it far more likely that we’re all just human, with far more in common than dividing us?  We all have failings: for example, procrastinating, not caring about things we should, avoiding difficult situations, lying to ourselves and others, or being aggressive or selfish at times.  We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.  But, being human also makes us want to connect and care about others, to challenge ourselves and to want to improve ourselves and the world around us.

So, my challenge (to myself, and anyone else that feels the need) is to be more mindful when observing other people and fairer in judging - recognising they are human, with virtues and flaws in constant conflict, and that there’s an awful lot in any given instant that we shouldn’t assume about their intentions.