Judging Others

This post kind of piggy-backs on a recent post, but mostly goes off on a tangent of its own. I’m constantly amazed at how harshly we judge others. If you’re on facebook, you’ve seen those statuses that say, “If you agree with X then post this as your status for one hour. Only 7% of facebook users will do this. If you don’t, you are a loser and I don’t want to be friends with you.” Okay, that’s not exactly what they say, but it’s close. Personally, I don’t do the “cut and paste” statuses. If you do, that’s quite alright with me. I’m not the status police. Just please don’t assume that because I choose not to, that I don’t care about whatever-it-is. I just choose to make a statement in a different way. I’ve never had anyway accuse me of not caring, point-blank. It’s just kind of assumed when you post a message worded that way that those who don’t repost, don’t care.

We also tend to judge people even if we only see one moment in their lives. We see a child throwing a tantrum in a store and think, “Why doesn’t his mom just spank him?” Without having a clue about what’s going on in that family or what they may have been dealing recently and especially that day, we assume we know how to make everything right. Of course, I don’t like to hear a screaming kid anymore than the next person, but usually, if a child is crying, there’s a reason for it. Yes, maybe they’re just mad because they can’t have the candy bar. But maybe if he weren’t coming down with a cold, he wouldn’t be as tempermental. Or maybe mom just got some bad news and is stressed. Kids pick up on their parents’ emotions pretty quickly. Maybe he’s tired because Mom works two jobs and he was at the babysitter’s late last night. It could be any one of a hundred things, and we just don’t know.

The Shriners often hold “roadblocks” here, where they stand at intersections and collect money from drivers stopped at the lights. I was waiting at a light recently during one of these roadblocks (they don’t actually block the road – it’s just one or two guys standing between lanes collecting money) when the man threw up his hands and said, “All I can do is try!” He wasn’t talking to anyone in particular because all the windows around him were still up. (He was several cars ahead of me.) In a way, I can understand his frustration. I’ve done the fundraising thing plenty of times and I know how hard it is. And of course, I don’t know what he was thinking about all the people sitting around him. But I can guess that he was looking at all those nice-looking cars and wondering how people could be so selfish. There are some selfish people, sure, but most aren’t. Some of those people were probably unemployed. They’re driving a nice car because that’s what they had when they were working and as long as you can scrape up the payments, it’s usually cheaper to keep the car you have than buy a new (or old) one. My car looks good, but it’s paid off and there is no way I could sell it and buy another car that would be as reliable because I’d have to buy one that’s even older than my 6-year-old car. But a stranger looking at it wouldn’t know it’s paid for.

Some of those people have money and give generously… just not to that particular charity. Some of them may have donated earlier that day when another Shriner was on duty. The same thing applies to people taking donations outside of stores. Just because people are buying groceries, doesn’t mean they have money to spare. Or maybe they gave somewhere else. Or maybe they just don’t have any change or small bills. We just don’t know and we can’t presume to judge people on one little out-take of  their life.

Remember the old saying, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”? Well, sometimes you don’t get a mile, you just get a couple of feet. Personally, I like the variation, “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That’s why I don’t judge strippers. Those 6-inch heels are killer.”