How Do I Stop Judging People?

scales of judgmentI have worked with dozens and dozens of clients who as part of the Life Coaching process have wanted to working on being less judgmental about others.

I’d even go as far as to say it’s rare not to have a client on my books who has that down as something they want to work on.

It’s a worthy and lofty goal, yet incredibly difficult if not almost impossible to achieve.

You’re hard wired to judge. If you weren’t you’d now be dead. Most of the judging you do however is done very quickly, often at an unconscious level and can be highly beneficial.

It’s also mainly binary, and by that I mean you ask yourself questions like:

  • Is this situation good or bad?
  • Is it safe or is it dangerous?
  • Is it something I want to move toward or away from?

If you’re walking down a busy high street and there is a man some way off moving toward you remonstrating wildly, shouting threats to passers-by and brandishing a gun, you would probably judge that now is a great time to check out the new coffee shop you’re just walking past.

Day-To-Day Judging

You may judge that it’s not wise to order that second bottle of wine when you’re already very drunk and have an early morning meeting the day after.

Or that deciding to take the car out when there’s 10 foot of snow on the road is dumb.

Or even heading off down an icy black run when we you only just started skiing is not a sensible course of action.

Simply put, your brain is a highly efficient judging machine.

I’ve never written a more difficult post than this, ever.

On Saturday morning I got a Facebook message from somebody saying how sad the news about Roy Naim was.

The person had assumed I’d heard about something that I hadn’t and I didn’t know what he meant.

My mind started racing and I felt slightly nauseous because I had meant to call him and see why he’d not responded to my last couple of e-mails. Something that was very unlike him.

I don’t know why, but my first thought was he had committed suicide and I felt an incredible wave of sadness come over me.

But that didn’t make any sense, I know Roy, he’s one of the most upbeat positive people I have ever met. A man that has overcome the odds in many ways. A man that was always fighting for justice and never seemed to be thinking of himself.

I have spoken to him many, many times and whereas our relationship started off with me helping him it wasn’t long before before more of our time was spent with him offering me (good) marketing advice.

I jumped to Google, entered his name and did a news search.

Sick To The Stomach

Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

Not only had Roy been arrested for downloading child porn, he had admitted to FBI agents he had been doing so for many years. He’s now facing up to 20 years in jail if as seems likely, he’s found guilty.

Honestly, for a moment I wished he had died. Not out of malice or any form of righteous indignation, but to save his family and loved ones the agony of dealing with such a devastating blow.

Last week I doubt you could have found anybody who I admired more in my own small online community. Most of his work was done for the betterment of others and time and time again I saw him step up for the underdog.

And he is a great guy in those areas, but he obviously has massive flaws in others. The kind of flaws that will make the good work he’s done and happiness he’s brought to others seem meaningless to the majority of people.

judging quoteShakespeare penned one of my favorite quotes of all time with, “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Good and bad are indeed human constructs and they don’t exist in nature. We judge whether something is good or bad based on our values and beliefs, not on anything tangible.

As such I try to avoid judging others because I know that if I had their genes and their upbringing I’d be just the same as they are. You, me and everybody else on this planet are just accidents of birth.

But, I am happy to judge the behavior and actions of Roy Naim as being bad.

Child pornography is not a victimless crime even if the viewer never takes it any further – because without the demand there would be no supply.

It’s irrelevant whether kids are forced, paid, tricked or merely asked to take part because the long-term consequences can often be devastating. Not only that, but the abused often go on to be the abusers.

If you genuinely don’t want to be a  person who judges others then you cannot pick and choose.

You cannot say, “Well I won’t judge that person who is obviously drunk and abusive, because his wife may have just left him, he could have been diagnosed with a serious illness, or even lost his job”

And then say, “But I will judge Roy Naim because his crimes are obviously worse.

As I said, when we decide whether to judge another person or not we do so based on our own values (personal and societal), beliefs and our life experiences and expectations.

The reality is we never know what’s going on the inside somebody’s head. We never know their life experiences that lead to their behavior and we have no way of knowing their genetic make up.

And the last part of that is interesting. Many people judge others because they literally don’t like their DNA.

If you were born gay there will be people lining up to judge you. The same goes for if you were born with different color skin, or even with with a physical or mental disability.

Most sensible people will accept judging people for any of the above is arrogant, ignorant and based for the most part, in fear.

But what about the drunk who had abusive alcoholic parents?

Or the petty criminal who turned to crime when his mother got sick and could no longer take care of her family?

Or the pedophile who was sexually abused for years?

See how blurry the lines can get? See how easy it easy to judge people who may deserve our compassion and help rather than scorn and abuse?

So How Do I Stop Judging People?

I have to confess that my knee-jerk reaction was to judge Roy. I immediately removed his guest posts and unfollowed him on Twitter, but I’m not sure that was the right thing to do.

You (and I) stop judging others by instead, judging situations and actions and separating them from the person.

This satisfies our brains desire for the binary information because it really doesn’t like 50 shades of grey and we also don’t feel like we are in some way condoning dreadful behavior.

Based on some of the vitriolic and abusive comments I have seen on Social Media, a lot of people have already made up their minds about Roy Naim. Sadly, a few are even using this terrible situation for political ends and as justification to attack foreign nationals, Jews and Liberals.

Some have even concluded that he must have been abusing kids himself, even though he hasn’t been charged with that as far as I’m aware.

I’m happy to judge this as a bad situation with no winners. I’m also happy to judge Roy Naim’s actions as wrong and potentially very harmful to others.

However, I’m going to try and avoid judging him as a Human Being because that’s not my job and there are many sides to his character, as there are us all.

It’s not easy, but according to my values, beliefs and life experience it seems like the right thing to do.

I’ve gone back and forth many times over whether I should run this post or just to put my fingers in my ears, shout loudly, and pretend nothing happened.

The latter felt like a cop out and I’m prepared to accept any shit coming my way for admitting that Roy Naim was a very good friend of mine.