A few days ago, I was at the store and I saw this man with a grossly ill fitting toupee and 70’s style side burns that seriously went down to his chin. Even the color of the fake hair appeared to be more than slightly off when compared to his real locks, not to mention that the hair was also a bit longer than the rest, making it more than obvious that it wasn’t real. It made me wonder why on earth this guy would even think about going out in public looking this ridiculous in the first place.
Just then, he turned his head slightly and I noticed that he had a scar on his face. It was a fairly long and rough looking mark, like he’d been in a fight that involved some sort of dull weapon and he was definitely on the losing end. That’s when it hit me that his toupee and side burns weren’t there to make a fashion statement. Instead, they were there to help hide the horrendous scar he had to look at every time he glanced in the mirror.
“I. Am. An idiot.” I thought to myself. There I was casting judgment on someone else before even considering the fact that there could be some reason other than my own for what I was witnessing. And why? He was obviously already embarrassed or ashamed about the mark. The last thing he needed was someone to make him feel worse by assuming something that was so clearly wrong (on many levels).
Times like this remind me of the dangers of making judgments before having all of the data…and it can go the other way too. For instance, a few years ago, I was at one of my speaking engagements and really thought I was bombing. However, after it was over, a handful of people approached me, sharing how engaged they felt and asking questions about different things I’d said. They heard me and were moved, yet my own judgment led me to a completely different conclusion . My judgment had told me I hadn’t moved them at all.
While making judgments is a natural reaction informed by the sum of our knowledge, education, and life experiences, there are many times that we are just wrong. That’s why it’s helpful to recognize the judgment as soon as it’s made, with the awareness that we bring our own subjectivities to draw conclusions that may be incorrect. This means when we make a judgement we pause…… with openness to other possible explanations and the understanding that things are often not as they seem.
This is my challenge to you: The next time you see something or someone and find yourself making a judgment, stop your thought and recognize it. Don’t try to change it yet; just identify the fact that you made it.
Once you do that, ask yourself if there is the possibility that your judgment is wrong. Could some other explanation exist to justify whatever it is that you’re seeing? If you think long and hard enough, you’ll likely come up with a number of different scenarios that could easily be the reason behind whatever is before your very eyes.
As Will Rogers once said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” Very true…at least it is for me. It might be for you too.