“We should not judge until we see clearly; and when we see clearly, we will not judge.” (G.D. Gregg) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.
Detroit Prosecutor Kim Worthy went to great lengths recently to explain her decision not to prosecute a Federal Immigration Officer after he shot and killed a young black man during an arrest attempt. What she was trying to do was explain clearly the facts that had been gathered in the case and the conclusion that she came to concerning the shooting. Due to the number of recent incidents involving white police officers shooting black men during police actions, there was a considerable rush to judge this latest incident as just another case of the use of excessive force against those of color. People had been judging the case without clearly seeing the facts; so, Worthy made a lengthy and detailed explanation to explain her conclusions ad decision not to charge the Immigration Officer, who happened to be white.
This little saying has widespread applicability in our daily lives. Many of us, and I have to admit to being in this group from time to time, rush to judgments without clearly seeing all of the facts. Snap judgments are often based upon the use of stereotypes or prejudices – some preconceived notions that we have going into a situation. It is very difficult not to have some mental “pre-sets” in life and even more difficult to learn not to use them to render a quick (and most of the time incorrect) judgement of people or situations.
How many times have we all looked at someone who might have been dresses strangely or at least differently and made a snap decision about them? You might decide that they represent a danger to you or that they are to be ignored or avoided, because of how they look. Perhaps you just silently say “tsk, tsk” to yourself and wonder how they could have such poor taste in clothes, at least according to your standards. Perhaps they appear to be unkempt to you. These are all judgments that you might make before you even speak to them (if you speak to them at all). Have you had experiences where you ended up talking to them and discovering, to your surprise, that they turned out to be very interesting people? Do you remember how quickly your concerns about their appearance faded into the background, once you got to know them? Once you saw them more clearly were you still ready to judge them solely on their appearance?
Situations can also present the opportunity to pre-judge or rush to judgement, before we have all of the facts (or maybe any facts at all) to support those judgments. Confrontational situations almost always cause us to get on one side or the other without understanding all of the facts involved. Situations involving the unknown or possible dangers may provoke reactions or responses made without taking the time to see things clearly. We may avoid participating in an activity that turns out to be fun because of some preconceived notion of the risks or dangers involved.
The key word at work in the opening quote is “judge”. It is very hard to put off making a judgement about people and situation until we have the time to collect and analyze the facts that should be driving that decision. We seem to have this need to respond; to answer the internal question, “What should I do?” Sometimes the best answer is to do nothing at the moment. Instead of “think fast” we should just think and try to get a clear picture of the situation or the person. Secondly, one must ask the question about the word judge – “By what or whose standards?” Taking that extra moment to think before you judge may help you see that the judgement you were about to make is based on prejudice or pre-conceived notions and not supported by the facts at hand. At least it may allow you to take the extra step of trying to see the picture more clearly, before you rush to a judgement. Most of the time the answer to the question “what don’t I know?” about this person or situation is more important and more interesting than what you think you know already.
Ultimately we can get to a state where making judgments is not something that we spend much time and energy
upon. Perhaps if we rushed to learn more about people, rather than rushing to judgments about them we’d have less fears and prejudices and more friends.
Have a great day and put off judging those whom you meet today. Try to make a friend before you form an opinion.