Don’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve heard it all before, and yet we still do it. If it were only books we were judging, that would be one thing, but it’s people as well. It’s the one who chooses water over wine, the one who uses the pronouns them/they, the one who speaks in whispers, if at all. We judge people based on their age, weight, profession, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, party affiliation, religion, upbringing, Instagram followers, whether or not they’ll take a vaccine. It’s now worse than ever before.
How can we judge someone at all if we’ve never stood in their shoes? How can we be high and mighty when someone committed petty theft to feed their family when we have never known the pangs of starvation?
The older I get, the more I realize that there is no black and white, there are only gray areas. Yes, even with good and bad. The one who is bullied and brings a gun to school isn’t evil. There is often pain, alienation, and neglect behind this cry for help. The suicide bomber is not just a murderer, they are likely a victim of brainwashing and religious cults who mandate sacrificial rituals and self-destruction.
I am not saying we need to understand thieves, abductors, murderers, or those who inflict pain on others for reasons we can’t begin to fathom. I am just saying that judgment is far too easy when we have not been in the situation ourselves. We will never fully grasp the hardships of another, therefore we will never grasp their survival skills. Just like they may never understand ours.
I want to start feeling proud of my generation again. I want to feel like we can speak our truths without being shoved into a corner or branded with biased labels. We all have a right to our own opinions, and we need to stop confusing opinions for facts. Fact: Our views are skewed. We may think we know what is best for ourselves, but we most certainly do not know what is best for our neighbors.
There is power and bravery in holding strong beliefs, but there is also ignorance and intolerance. We need to be wary of what we preach, because our children are watching us and absorbing our methods like tiny sponges.
When we are rude to someone simply because they work in the service industry or pray before every meal, that is widening the gap between each of us. We have to remember that we all cry tears that are salty. We all bleed when someone cuts us. And sometimes, even, we bleed on those who never tried to hurt us in the first place. Our wounds don’t deserve judgment, they deserve compassion.
Imagine what would happen if we replaced contempt with mercy? We are all capable of seeing beyond our own slender scope, but we need to come to terms with the fact that we will never understand every gesture of another. All we can really do is continuously push ourselves to be more open. To not judge so starkly. To let someone different from us sit at our table for once.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been proved wrong by my own judgments. The realization is both overwhelming and sobering. When the loner becomes a close friend or we discover we have more in common with a born-again Christian than our own family, our values inevitably shift. This is the goal. But in order to get here, we need to uncross our arms. We need to get comfortable with not always being right.
I don’t expect world peace anytime soon, but a more compassionate coexistence certainly seems like an attainable goal.