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Why can't we stop being so judgmental?

Judgmental. It's a word that often conjures up negative connotations, but the fact is that in its pure definition (of or concerning the use of judgment) it is our way of life. Our human brain is hardwired to constantly make judgments. It is our executive function that is always 'on'. We constantly process sensory input and the based on our education and experiences we make a decision. It's how the human race has survied and evolved all these thousands of years.

However, in our modern society we're not limited to making survival decisions, or even decisions of comfort. I doubt primitave man was thinking, "Gosh, that fur coat undermines the rights of that bear." or "I wouldn't have gone with that shade of brown. It does nothing for her features." No, he was thinking, "I got to get me one of those cause it's freezing out here."

On social media I'm constantly reading about the judgment of others, or more specifically the activity of thrusting our judgment upon other people. Also, because I have a child on the Autism Spectrum, I find myself reading how other adults (and subsequently their children) treat other with varying disabilities. From the adult who needs a handicapped parking spot yet isn't outwardly showing why, to the older child still in a stroller, the tragedy of a child being killed by an alligator, or the kid who has no friends to come to a birthday party. We see stories of both the darker side of and generous side of human nature. We also see articles about plus size models or what kind of cosmetic surgery an actress might have had, and we as a society make constant judgments from the vapid to the highly controverial topics of race and religion.

And no matter how hard I try to keep an open mind and see things from another's point of view, I'm still passing judgments. In fact, I find myself passing judgments on those I believe are overly judgmental. I think they're less socially evolved. I truly try not to read the comments to online news articles, but like a train wreck I have to look and then I pass judgment on all the idiots.

We are hardwired. It takes a lot of effort to overcome it. No one is perfect at censoring our judgments - keeping our opinions to ourselves and being open to the other side. We have to teach our children this new and special life skill needed by a member of modern society.

Ethan was lucky enough to go to an elementary school where the teachers, parents, and specifically a PTA initiative (Project Cornerstone) actively pursued teaching kids empathy, point of view, and openess to differences at an early age. I know I've quoted Rodgers & Hammerstein before in this blog, but I'll say so again, when it comes to hate, "You've got to be carefully taught." And by teaching acceptance and how to temper our judgment we are helping our children grow into a better world.

I see Ethan as a kid that any other kid is going to easily pick up on the fact that he's got something going on. In this day and age, they'd probably guess Autism correctly. Still, aside from some eyerolling or quiet snickers (which he doesn't pick up on), he's been accepted and has been relatively bully free except for a few small isolated instances and not since elementary. He has kids who've taken him under their wing and kids who look out for him. I can't quite say what's the formula for his self esteem, how much school environment, home life, therapy, his own innate brain personalty factored into his high self esteem, but he has it.

A parting anecdote from last week. Ethan's little brother was trying to get him to play a game with him and when the answer was no, his brother complaine to me that Ethan wouldn't play with him because he was socially awkward. To which Ethan blurted out, "I"m not socially awkward!"

My immediate thought was 'good for Ethan!'. It's nice that he can stand up for himself. I also set his younger brother straight, Ethan's not wanting to play a game has to do with his not wanting to play with him versus any type of social issue. Yet, secondarily I was thinking, "he is socially awkward." We're constantly working with Ethan to improve his social skills and get him to fight against his isolationist tendencies. And in that same way I have to teach his little brother to not be proclaiming his judgments. They are opinion not fact. And while many of our opinions are develped from facts, we still have to be respectful of alternative possibilities.

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