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Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Trying not to judge

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Dear Ella,

Every new year, I try to improve on one thing. I don’t like to call it a New Year’s resolution, but that’s pretty much what it is. I should let you know that I’m rarely successful at any of my commitments, except once I did actually quit smoking.

This year, however, I’m going to attempt a real toughy. I’m going to make an effort to not judge people. Usually, I’m extremely judgmental, not only assuming things about complete strangers based on their appearance, but also judging friends and family about the way they choose to run their lives, and often their kids’ lives.

I’m single, have never been married and have never had children, but somehow I seem to know what makes sense in certain situations, and I often feel like conking someone over the head and saying, “Are you nuts?” Situations seem so clear to me and yet I see people I care about making the most ridiculous life decisions. But no more! This is the year I put a stop to that. I’m setting myself up for failure, aren’t I?

No More Judging

Dear No More Judging,

A toughy indeed. At least you’ve been able to identify an uncomplimentary trait and are making an effort to fix it. Will you be successful? Time, awareness and practice will tell.

It’s difficult not to be judgmental. Almost everyone does it without even realizing it. If people are honest, they’ll admit to judging the young man wearing fairly new Nikes at a red light holding up a sign for money, or a group of teenage boys wearing hoodies and baggy pants, or the guy in the luxury sedan talking on his cellphone who just cut them off in traffic, or even the mom of the screaming kid in the grocery store. We make these judgments even though we’ve never met the person or have no idea of the situation. We also make judgments about friends and family – perhaps a friend who doesn’t work, or a parent whose teen has gone wild or a cousin who’s overweight, or even a nasty boss or co-worker.

Maybe the guy who cut you off just found out his child has been rushed to the hospital. Maybe your friend isn’t working because he or she is depressed, afraid or dealing with another emotional problem.

There’s a very fine line between snap judgment and reasoned opinion. The type of judgment you’re referring to comes from a quick, reactive thought, based on your own life experience and ego. A reasoned opinion is more thought-driven and leaves the door open for discussion. Snap judgments are finite, closed, automatic and made based on the way you’ve conducted your own life and how you feel about yourself.

To be successful, start with never assuming you know what’s going on in someone’s life, and never jump to conclusions. I commend you on attempting to fix this difficult habit. It may not be possible to stop judging completely, but every time you catch yourself, you’ll have become a little bit of a better person.

Remember, others are judging you, too, so this may be one of those times when what goes around, comes around.

Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN, e-mail: ellacjn@gmail.com. But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.

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