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Posts Tagged ‘being judgmental’

I watched, as our salesperson went to ask a male colleague a question on our behalf. We were making an important purchase—a new car—and had several queries.

‘No, that’s wrong!’ her male colleague said loudly, frowning. ‘Don’t you remember? You take this amount off!’

I felt sorry for our salesperson and, when she returned, pretended I had not heard anything.

Soon after, she decided to doublecheck something else, this time with her senior manager. A moment later, he strode across to us and took over from her.

‘I’m not sure where she was up to,’ he told us with a disapproving expression, as he looked at the paperwork on the desk. ‘I thought she would have explained all this to you already.’

I did not warm to his slick, arrogant tone and again felt sorry for our salesperson who had done her best. As he talked, she stood in the background—although I wondered if she might have preferred to be invisible instead.

Somehow, I was sure I detected some blatant sexism in all this. Our salesperson had been doing well—and I felt her male colleagues had put her down in a very public way.

Yet the previous day, I thought I had noticed some hints of a different sort of ‘ism’ in this same salesperson’s response, when we told her we wanted to go away and think about our options.

‘That’s okay,’ she told us. ‘But don’t leave it too long, otherwise you’re likely to forget all the things I’ve told you today!’

Was I supersensitive? Quite possibly! Yet this wasn’t the only whiff of ageism I sensed while ordering our new car. When it came to paying our deposit, we were ushered into a different office.

‘Are you comfortable with transferring money online or would you prefer to pay by bank cheque?’ the girl there asked us politely, unaware how condescending she sounded.

My husband smiled and told her that transferring money online would be fine, thank you. I felt like adding something like ‘despite how elderly and decrepit we might look’, but managed to refrain just in time.

We can all tend to judge others so easily—just as I may have already done in this post! We like putting people in boxes. We so often assume all elderly people lack certain abilities. Some of us assume women are too illogical and featherbrained for this or that role. And some of us assume so much too about people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We may not mean our comments to sound patronising or judgmental—quite the opposite, in fact. Yet, maybe taking a little more thought and care at times before blurting things out would be so much more helpful.

I keep thinking of Jesus’ own stern words too about judging others:

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.  Matthew 7:1-3 The Message

Hmm. I hope we can soon become blind more often to those smudges on others’ faces. After all, God has looked past the smudges on our own—and still does.

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Jo 17I had always thought I was not judgmental—until one night over twenty years ago when someone challenged me in a way I have never forgotten. I have written about this before but, at the risk of repeating myself, this is what happened.

For many years, we were part of a church in an area of Sydney where quite a number of marginalised people lived. As I walked out of the church office late one Sunday night, I glanced across at a youngish man seated nearby whom I knew from the area. He would often wander into our services in a half-drunk state and sit somewhere at the back. On one famous occasion, he even interrupted the sermon with the pithy statement ‘Pigs might fly!’!

On this particular night, however, he must have decided once again not to beat around the bush.

‘You don’t like me, do you?’ he challenged me out of the blue.

I denied it, but he simply sat there staring at me and grinning.

I could feel shame mounting inside me as I walked off. You see, what he had said was true. I did not like him—or, at least, I did not like his behaviour. Yet I had never bothered to find out anything about him as a person. Admittedly, he was often drunk and past communicating well with anyone most nights, but I had never cared about who he really was or why he had ended up living the way he did.

This salutary lesson has stayed with me ever since and, hopefully, prevented me from being too judgmental of others like this man. But in the past few months, I have learnt a lesson about a different kind of judgmentalism. I have learnt that not all children who look like they are behaving badly and being disobedient to their parents or teachers or carers may deliberately choose to do so. They may have ADHD or something similar. They may be overwhelmed by noise and unable to think clearly or respond well. They may not understand exactly what they were asked to do and be afraid of failing. The list goes on.

Recently, a phrase written by a leading expert in this area of childhood behaviour caught my attention. He talked about approaching such children with curiosity rather than judgmentalism—about taking time to explore their personalities and how their brains are wired rather than confronting their behaviour head-on in a legalistic way. Then it occurred to me how helpful it could be if we also showed a little grace and love and patience, along with that curiosity he mentions. Of course these children need to learn what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. But I see now there may well be better ways of helping them achieve this than my old, critical, judgmental approach.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had some straight words to say about judging others:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Wow! I hope I can remember this warning well and be open to more changes in perspective, as God continues to help me grow in grace towards others.

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