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We are so judgmental, even about ourselves

About DJC

The older I get, the less I know and the more inquisitive I get.

Unfortunately, despite a lifelong search, most of the answers elude me. That said, I love to ask the questions and fuel the debates that will ultimately lead us all to a better understanding of the big issues in life, the universe and everything.

They say that we spend 98% of our lives in our head. I for one would like to use that time as effectively as possible.

We are all judgmental. This may never change, but are we making these judgments on the true measure of a person?

I would like to think that I am not a particularly judgmental person. However, I recognise that I do make judgments about other people all the time. I frequently make judgments on the basis of what people look like, say and do.

If we are to judge, it should be based on what truly makes a person.

If we are to judge, it should be based on what truly makes a person. Picture: iStock

We all do! Even the most pious among us make judgments about our fellow human beings.

Read more from DJC: Why do we jail offenders? 

We also continually make judgments about ourselves. We assess our behaviour, performance and image daily. Worse still, we all too often make judgments about where we stand in relation to the people around us. Are we better or worse than those around us?

Research suggests that it is not healthy to compare ourselves with others and even less healthy to rank ourselves against others. The fact is, we all do it and we do it all the time. We think to ourselves: I am better than him, or she is better than me; I am not as good as her, or I am better than him.

Such judgments can be specific, relevant to a specific skill or feature; or general, addressing the person as a whole.

When it is specific, it is less concerning. The fact is that Greg Norman is a better golfer than me, and any judgment to that effect is both valid and, to some degree, helpful. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and an objective assessment of these can help us in so many ways. In my case, for example, it helps me to employ people who can make up for my weaknesses.

Steve Jobs made the point on numerous occasions, as have others, that we need to employ people who have skills and capabilities that we don’t. It is also helpful to understand whether devoting your life to being a professional golfer will ever pay dividends.

Where comparisons and judgments are less helpful, but are all too readily made, is in relation to a person or group of people as a whole. Hitler thought Germans were better than Jews. The KKK believes that whites are better than blacks. Many people may suggest that being employed and ‘responsible’, they compare very favourably to the homeless drug addicts they see in the street. Or that a person of great wealth, like Bill Gates, is somehow more entitled to the called Mr Gates, while they may still be addressed using their first name.

Have you ever noticed how newspapers refer to criminals by their last name, wealthy business people with a title (Mr or Dr) and politicians by their full name (Malcolm Turnbull)? Do you recall how at school, you were called by your given name and the teachers were given a title? What about how GPs are always called by their title? This is all about making judgments and ranking people.

This realisation led me to consider, as many of us have, the legitimacy of judging others, While it makes sense to make judgments on a specific skill, is it reasonable to rank anyone over anyone else?

I concluded that the answer to this question is an emphatic yes!

But I would believe that two people should only ever be evaluated and judged on two criteria.

The first involves the response to the question, does this person have a clear set of values?

The second involves the answer to the question, does this person do everything they can to live by those values?

For these two criteria to be fair and reasonable, we must first answer whether that person is capable of having and living by values? It is not reasonable to judge anyone on the basis of values, if they lack the intellect and capability to have and live by them.

That qualification met, i believe the quality of a person is related to whether they have clear values and the effort they put into living by them.

This is not to suggest that they should have the same values, or that the nature of their values is open to judgment. We all have different values. This is simply to suggest that a person who is capable, has a responsibility to establish what they believe in (regardless of how it might affect their choices) and then work as hard as they can to live by those values (no matter how hard that is and the personal cost)

It is also to suggest doubts about religious people who borrow their values from a book, without considering the issues in detail, and then excuse themselves by saying “I am only human’ when they fail to live up to them.

Having values is a sign that you respect other human beings. Working to live by those values is a measure of how much you respect other human beings.

Values - not wealth, sporting prowess, political power, occupational status, success or physical attractiveness - are the only measure against which people should be judged, at least on a general level.

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