This past week, the engine of my '97 Ford Taurus spewed battery acid and simultaneously died. To make matters worse, it died in an area that I am uncomfortable being in alone.
Four strangers happened to be in the near vicinity and were more than eager to come to my aid. My car was jumped and running in no time and all I had to do was watch. I regret to say that initially, I had formed unfair judgments about these good Samaritans. My erroneous train of thought had no correlation to these people's ethnicity, but was tied to the style in which they dressed and the area that they inhabited.
The entire scenario prompted me to question the way that people perceive each other and the manner in which we form judgments. We make judgments about certain people while we are standing in line at the supermarket. We categorize while going through a fast food drive through and we even judge while watching television in the privacy of our own homes.
We judge people everywhere and at all times.
It seems like such an elementary concept not to form preconceived ideas about people, but it is so commonplace. And, the effects are obvious from the hostility and the violence that is so prevalent on our five o'clock news that I do not feel out of line saying that this is a relevant problem.
Because our judgments, or in layman's terms, our prejudices, occur ever day, we deem them inevitable and in most cases do not even give them a second thought. The rhetorical question that I ask is, who are we to judge? What is it that makes us so superior? Or is it the feeling of superiority that we get that prompts us to continue to judge people?
I believe that we are guilty of doing this at least once every day and I include myself in that statement. But for every problem there is a solution and for every stimulus there is a response.
The first step in rectifying the dilemma of judgment making is to acknowledge it. I do not stand on a proverbial soapbox when I proclaim that judgment leads to stereotyping, which in turn leads to fear and can eventually build up to hostility. I consider how unfortunate it is that my judgments cause me to miss out on opportunities to learn from people who are different from me and to grow from interaction with people who have potential to stimulate my creativity.
It is not the people I judge who miss out, but, I, by making the judgments, am at a loss.
We, as individuals, need to question our actions. We need to look inward and consider what reasoning causes us to judge.
Consider the questions that I have been asking myself all week: Why am I so quick to judge others and therefore create a superior status for my-self, with no real basis for the judgment? Why do I feel that it is permissible, because, who am I to judge?