Judging people

Someday, I believe scientists are going to discover a judging gene – a little code in the human DNA that makes us say crazy things like “Heathen! You’re drinking coke. Don’t you know all righteous people drink Pepsi?” The difficulty for geneticists in the research and discovery of this judgment gene is it’s abundance. It is a predominant gene. In fact, the existence of this genetic marker is so prevalent that everybody has it. (Except for Michael W Smith – he’s perfect.)

How do you pin point something so wide spread? It’s not like the swine flu (or as they say in Israel: the Mexico flu – pigs not being kosher). There’s no patient zero. Or is there? Remember “it’s the woman’s fault” Adam from the Garden of Eden? And since Adam was (biblically speaking) to pass judgment on another human – he’s a good person to blame for the gene of judgment. Even the name is telling: Adam – Hebrew for ‘man’ and a play on the Hebrew word adamah, which means ‘earth.’ Judging people is a part of mankind’s earthly nature.


We all do it. We can’t help ourselves.

When Jimmy, Shane, T-dog, and I mocked/imitated the ridiculous postures of other drivers along I-5 from the backseat of the church van during our youth group’s road trips… we were judging them. The fact that I still refer to those other drivers ridiculous – over a dozen years later – shows that I’m still judging them. By calling gay guys ‘fags’ or referring to black guys as thugs we’re judging. When Joe Wilson interrupted President Obama’s speech to call him a liar, he was judging. And everybody who has been criticizing Kanye West for his stunt at the VMAs on Sunday is judging him.

What?!?! Did I just name drop the most arrogant person in the music industry? Why yes. Yes I did. And by calling him arrogant, I was judging him. See how easy it is to judge people. Piece of cake isn’t it.

This isn’t a circle of life, this is a chain of condemnation. Joe Wilson judged the president by calling him a liar. President Obama judged Kanye by (allegedly) calling Kanye a jackass. Kanye judged Taylor Swift by saying another nominee deserved the award that Taylor won. Judgment after judgment. We are all a bunch a judgmental individuals claiming a right that isn’t ours.

In the Bible, Jesus tells His followers not to judge people. That verse seems to be a favorite Bible verse for non-Christians. It’s the secular defense against judgmental Christians. Where Christians say “only God can judge me,” atheists say “don’t judge me.” This Biblical command is a universally understood truth: you shouldn’t judge people. Yet, we do it all the time.

Thankfully, this is not an arbitrary command where God says “do it or I’ll spank you.” We’re given the order, but we’re also told why. “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” So this isn’t an issue of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ We’re not left to wonder what will happen if we judge people; we’re told what will happen when we do. It’s not that we’re prohibited from judging, but encouraged not to. We are being warned that whatever method used to judge others will be used against us.

So if I say Kanye West is arrogant, aren’t I saying that I am arrogant? Wow. Or when another local blogger called Kanye a “rude bozo”, how does that reflect the person who made that statement?

What such negative judgments are really saying is that the person making the judgment is better than the person being judged. When someone says “Kanye is a rude bozo” I hear that person state “I’m better than Kanye.” What a horrible thing to imply. The truth is that we’re all fallible. We all suck equally. We’re all capable of mistakes.

Kanye West said something incredibly stupid. But I say stupid stuff all the time. The difference between us is he said something stupid in front of an audience of 27 million (according to the Nielsen ratings). My audience is much smaller. But what’s the difference between the impact of our stupidity? Kanye and I both have the power to hurt people with our words, so the amount of people watching doesn’t matter. Just because I have an audience of a couple dozen and he has millions doesn’t make me any better than him.

So be careful how you judge Kanye’s outburst. He’s just as human as you.

And maybe the lesson we need to learn is not to avoid passing judgment, but to change the way we judge. Give people the benefit of doubt. Always look on the bright side of life. Remember that mistakes are often the result of bad choices – not bad character. Don’t assume the worst.

We need to talk about it.

But… but… but…. Talking takes work. It takes effort. Yes. Yes it does. But it’s worth it. Can you imagine what our government could accomplish if they’d just talk about issues rather than arguing and throwing around insults and false accusations? (Remember when Sarah Palin said that her kid and her parents would have to face Obama’s “death panels”?)

Discussion is hard work, but it accomplishes so much more than snap judgments. That’s why Kanye’s appearance on Jay Leno is so significant. It would have been so easy for Leno to say “You were such a jerk. How can you live with yourself?” But that’s not what was said. Leno asked challenging questions without passing judgment.

So maybe scientists won’t discover a gene that makes us prone to being judgmental. But I’m still holding out for scientists to discover the difference between wise old men and crotchety old men. Because, if I had to choose, I’d rather not be grumpy when I get old.

ps. Kudos if you caught the Monty Python reference. Extra kudos if you caught the Hokus Pick reference.

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