This past year I moved my family to a new neighborhood. A neighborhood that my wife and I felt wonderful about when thinking about where to raise our sons….a seemingly great sense of community, great schools, a house with plenty of space and a great yard for our boys. A community that we now call home.
About 4 months after moving in I was driving home from seeing a client and I stopped at the local “mini mart”. I got out of my car and was about to walk into the store and I heard “N####R”. I turned around and a man had pulled his truck over on the side of the road and stopped just to yell that at me. When I got home I was shaking. Admittingly my first reaction was outrage and thoughts of what I would do if my boys endured such treatment in my new neighborhood. But what I verbalized to my wife is that the guy didn’t even know me. I try to be a good person, do the right thing and he didn’t even know me yet his judgements led to him yelling that at me. I was deeply saddened and frustrated.
We all make premature judgements. Myself included. There are many factors or characteristics that lead us to make snap judgments about someone or some group of people. The list includes but is not limited to economic status, skin color, religion, job title, hair color, weight, where they live, the car they drive, whether they are single or married, whether they are an introvert or extrovert….any the list goes on.
If you are not following what I am saying, here some more common ways these judgments show up. We have an employee that is an introvert and refer to them as an angry, unfriendly person. We see a black person driving a Mercedes in the wrong part of the city and assume they are a drug dealer. We see a wealthy white person and assume they are snobby and pretentious. We consider the person who doesn’t work lazy? Just the other day I overheard a conversation at the gym where a man was saying that his wife thought she sat next to a terrorist on the plane because he had a “wrap” on his head. Follow me now. When is the last time you made a judgement? If you are honest with yourself it probably was in the last 24 hours.
This post is not about stopping making judgments all together. I think it is human nature to make judgments based on our experiences, upbringing, etc.. However, imagine if we suspended our judgements or at the very least became accutely aware that we have made a judgment without knowing someone one…paused…and then set out to get to learn about that person if possible.
It saddens me that there are so many missed opportunities because of judgments. Missed opportunities to find likeness, not difference. Missed opportunites to befriend a beautiful soul. Missed business opportunities(I giggle at this one in that many perceive me as “fluffy” and that I don’t understand business simply because I lead with what I know to be the most important..people). Missed opportunities to uncover an employee’s true value. Perhaps if we understood the magnitude of missed opportunities things would start to shift.
The gentlemen that yelled at me missed an opportunity to meet me and I can only imagine he has missed dozens if not hundreds of opportunities in his life to meet wonderful people. People that could of been life long friends, that could have educated him, that could have helped him in his career, or that have children that could be in the same classroom as his own children. Sad.
You see, I am taking the time to write about this because we have been taught, or atleast told since we were children to “Not judge a book by it’s cover”, yet as a society we still struggle with this…in life and at work. Once again, I am calling for individual action. Pause…look within and take action to nullify your judgements.
Let me give you another example of this where I was extremely guilty. I lived in Baltimore City for many years and it is a city that has a drug problem. And, because of that I assumed that the many homeless people I would see driving to work were “druggies” that had messed their lives up. I did not think that this of all of them but if I am honest with myself it surely was a strong judgement I had made of many people I did not even know.
Then I was fortunate enouph to go through the GBC LEADERship program and in my class was a great man by the name of Kevin. Kevin was the CEO of Healthcare for the Homeless and invited particpants to spend a day at his facility. Man, were my eyes open as I sat with homeless people and heard their stories. My judgements were wrong and these people were beautiful souls that in many cases have psycholigical illnesses, had gotten laid off from good jobs, had families, or had gotten ill and with no helath insurance went broke. I have never looked at a homeless person again the same. But, it should not have taken that experience for me to not make snap judgements.
I should point out the obvious. That sometimes we make judgements that are actually true of someone. For the purposes of this blog, that does not matter nor is it a justification to continue to make snap judgements.
I am addressing making judgements for three reasons:
First, and again, I think we all miss many opportunities to meet wonderful, like minded people because of the judgments we make.
Second, when you judge someone it hurts. Think about when you have been judged….it hurt. You can say it didn’t matter, but I think you were lying to yourself.
Lastly, judgments lead to horrific action in many cases….just turn on the news as of late.
If you think you can’t make a difference than remember the story of the boy on the beach throwing starfish in the ocean..
A young boy was walking along a beach during low tide and there were many starfish stuck on the beach. He began throwing them back one by one. An older man approached him and said, “Why are you bothering throwing them back? There are far too many to make a difference”. The boy picked up a starfish and threw it back in the ocean and responded, “It just made a difference for that one”.
I have to admit that as I write this I feel a heavy heart because I realize just how making judgements has hurt so many of us, including me, and our society at large. I think of how many times in a week I have to sit with my clients and talk about suspending judgements or sit with an individual that is completely misunderstood in the work place and therefore not getting the deserved opportunity. I think of how many judgements I have made and it makes me feel ashamed. I, we, have work to do.
Tomorrow is Independence Day. Many a politician will be on stage praising our heritage, it’s people and our society…let freedom ring. I just wish freedom and independence were not just rights given to us on paper but ones that were felt by all because we all were throwing starfish, one by one, in the ocean…everyday.
PS. I have been told I should ask my readers if there are things you would like to hear my thoughts on so I am going to do just that. Is there? Please let me know if there is something you would like me to write a post about….personal or work related. Just post a comment and ask a question or share a thought and if I am worthy, I will write about it.