Constrained To Judge?

There is a dire need to spread kindness and empathy because we must realize that everyone we meet is fighting a battle about which we have no knowledge. Although we are constrained to judge, we just have to inject it with an ampule of wisdom laced with sense.

Constrained To Judge?

Just like there are two sides of a coin, heads and tail that despite being close together are poles apart in their identities; opinions about something particular can differ yet remain positive and original. Complexities of life are such that at times it becomes very difficult to take a particular side and stick to it no matter how good our intentions as there can be multidimensional ways to observe and deduce. Considering oneself to be always correct is in fact reflective of a bloated ego that refuses to bend when shown the truth, therefore this op-ed is apropos to “The beauty and ugliness of perception” published on November 25, 2023 and discusses the flip side of being judgemental as rightly pointed out by an ardent reader.

We are constrained to judge everyone, everything and all that happens around us except that we just need to adjust the sails of our ship of life to retain its balance to allow for smooth sailing!

From early childhood, the first lessons on judging others begins at home when parents restrain their children from speaking to or taking things from outsiders. Try being nice to an unknown kid and the look that will come across would be that of mistrust when the child attempts to decipher whether the stranger is a friend or foe. In educational institutions, most of the time students are judging teachers from the way they look, behave, talk and teach so from their feedback, the administration becomes obliged to elevate or terminate faculty members.

In our lives, we come across thousands of people, we make acquaintances of hundreds but we are judgemental when choosing friends and that is wise too since we cannot be intimate with all whom we come across daily. Ill-tempered, ill-mannered, demanding, socially incompatible are some of the traits we are quick to discern and thus avoid befriending such people. This implies that we have laid down certain criteria for those who we can trust and in whose company we can be comfortable.

The same holds true when we seek our life partners. We are actually scrutinizing both physically and mentally the attributes of our future spouses from the angle of what is agreeable, what is tolerable and what is detestable. Our choices then become dependent on the balance of probabilities which may later prove to be either good or bad, again depending on a judgement we are compelled to pass.

Take the case of parents looking for matches for their sons and daughters regardless of how they themselves look, they are seeking the most beautiful or the most handsome person. Appearance is the first thing that becomes the target of judgement preceded by a geographical survey from head to toe. Few would bother to overlook face, height or weight to see past these things and search for better qualities within a person as honestly, the mind is already made up.

When stepping onto career paths, people are inclined to judge companies, bosses, designations, salaries and perks offered etc. Similarly, employers too are doing their bit of judgement when interviewing prospective candidates. No wonder that out of many, only a handful are selected. Hiring is a serious responsibility and jobs cannot be handed over to dishonest or incapable employees nor are the references provided can be relied upon most of the time so employers have to base their selection on the best of their own judgement which can be wrong as we are not perfect and appearances can be sometimes quite deceptive.

If some people think they are absolutely pious, truthful, trustworthy, attractive, adorned with all the wonderful attributes anyone can imagine, there are others who look deep within and find themselves full of flaws. While the former may be prone and quick to judging others the latter may hesitate for a few moments to understand the exact circumstances surrounding a person. For example, job applicants looking nervous could be rejected on this ground alone but if some from the interviewers had also suffered the same situation, they could be more empathetic towards them. Of course in today’s fast moving world one hardly has the time to take a minute out to ponder, as one is looking for immediate results therefore judging, rather than risking seems more appropriate when making such decisions.

Human beings differ from other animals on account of their ability to think even though it is quite a tedious process for the majority. Carl Jung looks at it this way: “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge”. From a young age our brains are programmed to judge the way our elders want us to view the world which enables our thought processors to switch onto idle modes as we conveniently go along judging without paying attention to detail because that would obstruct our free movement.

We are hardly ever taught the path of how to decide as decisions are thrusted on us from day one. Those who dare activate their thinking and take a different view usually end up being called rebels, liberals or leftists. Their idea of right and wrong is separated by a thin film of rationalization and compassion therefore they are hesitant to pass an instant verdict.

One cannot prevent people from judging as it is part of their innate nature but one can at least endeavor to inculcate compassion and self-awareness to allow more openness for understanding others as they are and not how we would like to place them in our own perception. As Doe Zantamata wisely said: “Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow”.

There is a dire need to spread kindness and empathy because we must realize that everyone we meet is fighting a battle about which we have no knowledge. Although we are constrained to judge, we just have to inject it with an ampule of wisdom laced with sense.

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)