How Much Judgment?

Do you recall when Paula Deen was lambasted for her racist remarks regarding some of her employees way back in 2007? I wrote about it here. The fallout caused her to lose a popular FoodNetwork TV show as well as several product endorsements, which was pretty sensational and fairly unheard of in those days.

We’ve come a long way since then. And not in a positive, uplifting, or constructive direction.

Over the Top

We’ve become hypersensitive to opinions, judgments, beliefs, reactions, and spoken words. I’m not saying what Ms. Deen said was okay; I’m saying the public en masse was quick to sit as judge and jury at what she did 1) without remembering they’ve done and said stupid things themselves, and 2) without realizing they didn’t have all the information to make their judgments. Someone is offended by and indignant about almost anyone and anything these days. Whether you’re a politician or a celebrity, a pastor or school administrator, thoughts you’ve expressed can and will be taken out of context. And we’re more eager than ever to jump all over and criticize what’s been said, done, or shared.

Some people are so ready to engage negatively, to throw dirt at their enemies or rivals, that they’ll twist the most innocuous words or actions into something quite foreign. Anything taken out of context can be, and often is, used against an enemy or perceived threat.

“I’m Better Than You” Thinking

Implicit in much of our judging is this notion of “superiority,” also known as virtue signaling. Strictly speaking, virtue signaling is the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue. Be on the lookout when someone (especially you) tosses out judgmental criticisms as a way of soothing his or her own insecurities, or as a way to rise above others. “If she hadn’t worked two jobs, her daughter might not have started using drugs.”

The current political climate has fostered an increase in judgment. And I’m not just talking about one side of the aisle, but both! Bipartisanship is a thing of the past.

We have completely forgotten how to see another point of view – especially if it’s one we don’t like. We have to be either pro life or pro choice. What about living with whichever option works best for you and letting the rest go? The problem comes about when we take the time and energy (and sometimes the money) to vehemently judge and criticize the opposing view. In disagreeing, what good does it do to try to make the other guy feel bad or that they’re not as intelligent, educated, accomplished, or creative as you think you are? This goes double for online “conversations.” When interchanges collapse into name-calling or labeling the opinions of another, it’s time to stop and look within. Stick to the issue and avoid making it personal.

What Elders Can Do

It’s been said a lot, and it’s true, that at this age, we are the role models for grace and compassion, for keeping our mouths shut if what we have to say makes us look good at the expense of making the other person look “less than” or bad.

You can be political without running every idea, belief, or opinion through some political mill to see if it holds up to your tribe’s ideals. You can have a different idea, viewpoint, opinion, or thought about something that is completely opposed to that of someone else. And you don’t need to point out how they’re wrong, ill-informed, clueless, or stupid just because their thinking is different. You can just listen … without comment.

Another thing we can do with friends and family is keep our pointer fingers – you know, the ones raised, ready to wag at anyone you think is behaving badly – in our pockets. Finally, we can stop before sharing with or educating another. I’ve used the “delete” button to erase the opposing viewpoint I’m just getting ready to post on social media. Is it really important to always add your (perceived) elevated point of view or opinion or knowledge?

Replace judgment with compassion and use your ability to listen instead of trying to educate or shine or one-up.