I try to not judge people, but I once took a Myers-Brigg personality test and one of my letters came up “J” for “judging” as opposed to “P” for “perceiving.” Oh well, guess it’s an uphill battle for me.
When I have the upper hand in that battle, however, I usually succeed in putting myself (the judger) in the other person’s (the judgee’s) shoes and gain their perspective. When I can control my judgmental self, not get too hot-headed and see things objectively, I feel I can gain a lot of knowledge and insight which will then lead to a better ability to properly assess, or “judge,” a situation. Maybe the person that passes me on the street with tons of piercings, tattoos and dark clothes had a rough upbringing or poor role models. Maybe there are endless facts about a situation that I can never know, therefore making any judgement I pass based on incomplete knowledge. Maybe there’s an excuse or explanation for all inequities in this world that can be traced back along a cascade of misguided causes and effects. I try to not go in with guns blazing and instead give people the benefit of the doubt for as long as I can until it’s been proven to me that they knowingly have done wrong and are in need of penance, somewhat reflecting the code of the American justice system, “innocent until proven guilty.”
What I’m getting at here is that I try to look at these issues presented in class objectively and give those involved the benefit of the doubt until I’ve thoroughly investigated their stories and can then adequately assess the situation. I hesitate to point fingers and scandalize someone before I know their whole story, mostly because I would hate to pass the wrong judgment on someone, making the fact that I’m judging even worse, and I don’t like looking foolish (who does?). I know that it’s easy for those who know the stories already to emit a vibe reflecting their attitudes toward the responsible parties, but even when I hear a story knowing some background information I like to keep a level head, ask questions, and listen. I’ve developed this approach because I think it’s fair and objective, which is how I think one needs to behave when passing judgment.
This idea of fairness is the last thing I’ll mention here. We’ve been reading and discussing a lot about governmental officials doing, or not doing, their jobs of serving and protecting the American people, and yesterday I enjoyed the privilege of having a conversation with one. One of my main questions was about the relationship among the governmental organizations, the general public, and the industries that run the economy. The case in point was the TCC case where the EPA had to crack down on TCC at the urging of local residents. The thing is, the EPA is required by law to be a fair and unbiased investigator of TCC and their alleged crimes. Their only bias is the protection of public and environmental health, but the company has the right (deservedly) to due process and is permitted to exercise that right. The laws must be structured this way so that a company who is behaving ethically can defend its actions, just like an innocent defendant in a court case (again, being innocent until proven guilty). A lot of flak is shoveled at the EPA because of its slowness to act, but the resources necessary (time, money, authority) to adequately investigate is often not enough for our governmental servants to move as fast as we would like. Therefore, I err on the side of cutting those who are responsible for investigations like in the TCC case some slack. I don’t like passing judgment until I know all the facts (which may never be entirely known – we are dealing with people here and people lie, make mistakes and have biases), and instead of passing that judgment at all it would probably be a better use of my time to investigate further and even help with the cause. As I said in an earlier post, voting is the minimal civil service we’re all called to do. If we feel passionate about something, we should educate ourselves as much as possible and from that platform help in doing what’s necessary to right any wrong that may have occurred. I’ll end with the line from JFK’s inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” We are all called to be servants, because when we can all serve each other we can call benefit.