Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Judge Not

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged."

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." (Rom 14:13)
We do a lot of pre-judgment on a lot of things, people as well. Some judge others on the basis of skin colour. Even before the person is allowed to speak, things are already happening in the decision making engine of our head. Others judge people on the basis of their qualifications. If the person does not even have a degree, a skillset discount is automatically applied. Still, many people judge prospective candidates on the basis of their experience. This leaves new graduates out of any employment consideration. In social circles, judgment easily happen both consciously and unconsciously. In general, people gravitates towards their own kind, those that one feels more comfortable with. Any person(s) who does not share the common background gets filtered away as strangers or generally to be avoided.

A prominent Taiwanese professor of Psychology once shared about his early experience as a clinical psychologist in America. The moment people sees his Asian face, people automatically give a '50% discount' on his ability to accurately diagnose their condition. In other words, people judged him as ineffective simply based on skin colour. It is sad that all over the world, discrimination like this happens in different cultures. All races, all religions and all cultures discriminate in various ways. Some more, others less, but all attempt to differentiate people according to their own set of criteria. In the name of efficiency, a set of criteria is usually applied to sort out the good from the not so good. In the name of unity, people pick out those who tends to be more team-players rather than stubborn dissenters who pose a threat to cohesiveness in a group environment. When that happens, any gain in homogeneity leads to a loss in diversity.

What goes on in the head tends to dictate the actions our hands, our feet and our mouths make. When we judge a person, we make a premature conclusion that infringes on that person's freedom to be who he is created to be. Scientists have done research and concluded that people has a tendency to behave according to the expectations imposed on them. In particular, the words of a father can profoundly impact his children.
- You are useless!
- Lazy bum! Always looking for ways to shirk responsibility.
- "Bravo. Keep it up. You can do it."

When a father constantly berates his child, he is setting his child up for a rebellious and unfulfilled future. In the violent Jackie Chan movie, "The New Police Story" released in 2004, the main villain in the movie is that of a son of powerful police chief. This head of police used lots of negative language to abuse and humiliate his son, whom he deemed useless and good for nothing. As a result, the son grows up to hate cops, and spends his time dwelling in a video game environment that kills cops. Disastrously, he moved from the virtual video world and started to kill cops in the real world. The power of a father's words strikes deep and far.

Recently, I was deeply embarrassed as I watch the "Britain's Got Talent" episode featuring a humble, not too impressive looking middle aged lady called Susan Boyle. From the camera's angle, lots of people were already giving a '50% discount' on this woman's ability to croon. However, when the music starts, and the time comes for her to sing, she delivered one of the richest voices and hauntingly beautiful voices ever to be heard. Many in the audience, including the judges gave her a standing ovation. As the whole scene was played out, I cannot help but feel embarrassed that I too, were one of the guilty ones giving a '50% discount' to this plucky lady. I thought to myself: "Have I consciously or unconsciously judged others? Have I, in the process become unfair in not allowing them to be the best selves, simply by my discriminatory stance?"It is a wake-up call for me, that as a disciple of Christ, as one who desires to be part of ushering the kingdom of God for all mankind, we must be champions of diversity. More importantly, we must be chief proponents of ensuring everyone has a fair chance to succeed, to be the best they were made to be. Matthew 7:1 may come across as a negative "Do not do this" or "Do not do that." I propose that there is also a positivistic angle to it. We can avoid judging others, by helping them be the best person God made them to be. It starts by first acknowledging that only God can judge. Never us. Never discount anybody, not even a stranger.

Thought: What causes you to judge people? Have you unfairly applied different criteria to different people in your daily interactions with people? In hiring? In choosing friends or social acquaintances? Indeed, when we judge others, we are not freeing them but enslaving them according to the imperfect chains of our expectations, including those that we ourselves have trouble meeting.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." (Martin Luther King Jr)

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." (Mother Teresa)


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