Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Moving Beyond Appearances: Softening Judgment

It is our natural inclination to judge people, since it happens without our even thinking about it. We take one look and summarize a whole person-overweight, pretty, stylish, sloppy. This habit comes from the mind's need to categorize the world in order to be able to function without becoming overwhelmed. When we judge, we are looking for pertinent information, trying to determine whether the person approaching is a threat, an ally, or someone we don't need to worry about. This way of looking at people makes sense in a dangerous context, but in our daily lives it leads to an overly simplistic reading of the people we meet.

If you have ever judged someone dismissively, only to have them become a dear friend once you got to know them, you know the hazards of the judgment cycle firsthand. An experience like that may have led you to soften your natural tendency to believe your first impressions. We will always notice things about the people we meet, but as we become more conscious of the shortcomings of judgment, we won't be satisfied with our surface observations. We may notice that someone is driving an expensive car, but we will decide whether to befriend her based on getting to know her over time. We will not rule out a friendship with someone with messy hair, especially if he turns out to have a great sense of humor and a kind heart. Liking or disliking a person is a choice you will naturally make, but it will be after you have gotten to know them.

Case in point: I met a woman through an online group that I participate in. We'll call her Judy. Now, Judy told us right away that she worked as a stripper and even thought she didn't particularly like it - she had bills that needed to be paid. Immediately, another lady - we'll call her Trish - started voicing judgements about Judy based on what she did for a living and promptly dismissed her as unworthy of her friendship. It was unfortunate because if Trish had spent just five minutes listening to Judy - she would have seen what a beautiful person Judy is, honest, open and wanting to make a change. Judy was looking for direction, not judgement and Trish shortchanged herself out of an opportunity to help someone else.

So next time you notice yourself judging somebody, try to send love, light, or blessings to the person you were judging. Then try to listen to them openly or look them in the eye and learn something about them. If this is not easy for you, remember not to judge yourself either. Trust that with practice, you will successfully disable your habitual patterns. As you do, you will find a whole new dimension of perception opening up to you, allowing you to see beyond the surface and into the essence of the people you meet.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I've been in the same situation. No matter what a person does, there's something behind the reason, something thats deeper than the surface. And given some time you can see the whole picture for what it's worth. Most times the perception is beautiful than what you first perceived it to be.