I think I had a mini revelation tonight.
I’m not entirely sure.
Usually a revelation brings about some kind of change in a person’s internal world. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to make the kind of change that this revelation entails.
I stepped into an elevator to my apartment. A man enters after me.
I am immediately uncomfortable. My thoughts automatically turn defensive. What if the man is a creep and I’m cornered in an elevator with him?
Within a few seconds, my worries about his potential deviant nature subside as I smell cigarettes. I take another look at the man; balding, overweight, beer gut, tall, heavy set. No wedding band. The elevator shudders with the fierce wind ripping through Melbourne tonight. I see the shift from side to side. I immediately stop judging the man’s marital status and go into anxiety mode.
What if the elevator gets stuck and I’m here with the stinky guy?
Worse still, imagine if someone flew a plane into my apartment building, or blew it up with a bomb, and I was in the elevator with this man. I envision rubble scenarios and twisted metal and me looking for signs of life in the stranger as we wait for help to arrive.
I notice his shoes. Work boots. I look at his face. Tired.
I notice he is going to the 9th floor. I’m up on the 21st.
Nothing happens. The man peacefully exits the elevator without trying to cop a feel, taking the stench of cigarettes with him. As he exits I think something along the lines of “Poor lifestyle choices” to myself.
I exit on the 21st floor.
All this in the space of the 22 seconds it takes my elevator to ascend to the 21st floor, give or take a few seconds for the stop to deliver my new friend to his own.
And I click:
What. The. Actual. Hell.
I don’t know this man, but immediately I’m making assumptions and judgments about him. His lifestyle, his choices, his career, his sexual preference, his character, everything. All in the space of 20 seconds.
He never says a word, never even looks me in the eye, and yet I judge. I make judgments that position me in a favourable light to the man standing next to me.
He could be a devoted father. He could work three jobs to support his family. He could have tried to quit smoking year after year and not been successful. He could have a poor time genetically and just have poor luck when it comes to health and weight. He could be a millionaire. He could work for the love of getting his hands dirty. He could be a widower. He could be a very happy single man with a great community of friends who fulfill his emotional connection needs. He could have a giant collection of stuffed animals and wear women’s underwear for all I know.
The man could be a saint. But I’ll never know that, and for some reason I’ve become comfortable making judgements about people based on a single glance and 20 seconds in an elevator.
I wish I could say he was an exception. That deep down, I think well of people, and don’t judge. That I see a woman and automatically appreciate her beauty as an individual. That I don’t judge people’s worth based on my ideals of what makes a person happy or successful.
Are we wired as humans to judge? Why? Is it because we all know that ultimately, we’re falling short of the glory we’re meant to reflect?
There’s no doubt social media assists people in judging the life and choices of others, even relative strangers. There’s no doubt it gives us some false sense of familiarity with people we really don’t actually know a thing about, and a sense of entitlement to judge those people based on how they present themselves online. But I’m talking about a basic human response that extends beyond social media.
Is it possible for a person to not judge another? Ever?
There are times when I’m too self-absored to notice what the girl on the tram next to me is wearing, or times when I’m so tired I can’t see anything except my pillow in the distance, calling me. Those are the times people escape my judgmental eye. There are also those times where I see things and feel heartened by it – the child on the tram excited to see Luna Park, calling out “Hi, Luna Park!!!” as the tram rolls by.
Or the time when I walk past a homeless person begging and feel my heart screaming to help them. To feed them. To be Jesus to them.
I would consider myself a ‘good person’ if asked. But in reality, on closer examination, I’m a judgemental, entitled jerk. I’ve gone through the experience of having someone call out insults to me based on my weight and appearance in the past. And now I’m a ‘healthy’ weight I judge other obese people with the same measuring stick I once loathed to be ruled by.
So that is my revelation. I judge. Every second, of every day. If I’m really honest, I probably think I’m better than you. More deserving of mercy. More in need of grace. And, while we’re being honest, my heart and relationship with God are apparently more pure than your own.
I just can’t believe it. I never knew I was such a jerk.
How does one change this? Like really, truly, deep down, change one’s wiring and emerge a more loving, less judging person?