Indulge me for a minute. I want you to think back to yesterday. Run the day’s events through your head. Think about the things you did, the people you met and the conversations you had. Now I want you to think about how many times during that same day you said or thought something that was judgmental; about yourself, about others, about a politician, about a religious leader, or about a friend or an event.
If you’re anything like me, until you consciously thought about it, you probably didn’t realize just how many times in the course of a regular day you were being judgmental. Each and every one of us is judgmental and not a day goes by when we don’t make multiple judgments, both moral and personal about people and events we are exposed to. Judging seems to be the way we fit and organize things and people into categories in our already crammed brains. It seems to be our way of organizing the world into good and bad, right and wrong, safe and harmful, friend or enemy, worthwhile or a waste of time.
But there is a downside to all of us being so quick to judge. By being judgmental we gradually become less open to understanding, less aware of the fact that we can never really know what someone is feeling because we will never ever be them.
For the past week I have found myself growing increasingly more disgusted with how judgmental the world, or should I say the people living in the world have become. (The irony of me being judgmental about people being judgmental does not escape me.) I can understand not liking someone and not wanting to invite them into your inner circle to be a part of your life. I understand not embracing someone else’s beliefs. I understand trying to rally people against an injustice and to try and make a change in the world.
I do not understand having to be hateful and spiteful in order to do that. I do not understand having to criticize someone instead of criticizing their idea. I do not understand being so fearful of change or so unsure of your own ideas and beliefs that you hate and you harm instead of just living your life as you see fit.
I don’t understand how people can judge someone during their time of grief instead of digging deep and finding sympathy and kindness. How can someone criticize a heartbroken grieving parent who caused his child’s death by leaving him in the car by mistake. Is it not enough that the parent will live with anguish and guilt for the rest of their days?
Are we arrogant enough to believe that a tragedy that is our fault could never happen to us? Have we never forgotten something important when our daily routine was changed or because we had a lot on our mind? Have we ourselves never made mistakes that could have ended in tragedy? Be honest, how many of us at one time or another have been distracted by a cellphone while driving? If you’re reading this, you were probably spared a tragedy that very easily could have happened by your hand in the blink of an eye. None of us are perfect so why can we not feel someone’s pain, be sorry for the anguish they are going through and learn from it instead of judging the person?
I also don’t understand how or why a Jew can turn on another Jew for the type of kippa they wear or the fact that they choose to serve their country. I don’t understand how the spirit and the laws of Judaism have Jews thinking it is legitimate to hate other Jews.
All I know is that the world is getting more and more broken. We live in a world of mind boggling advances yet at the same time we seem to be regressing in our human behaviors. The things that keep making the headlines are news I don’t want to read because they portray a world I don’t want to live in.
I don’t live in LaLaLand. I know the world is not perfect and then no one living in the world will ever be perfect. I know we all have our opinions, our different upbringing, our prejudices and our years of baggage. I know that being judgmental is the way people cope with the massive amounts of information that is now a part of our everyday lives.
All I am asking of everyone, including myself, is to try to replace some of our judgmentalness with compassion and understanding. On the eve of the fast of Tisha B’Av maybe we can make a little shift from groundless hate (the reason the second temple was destroyed) to trying to understand and respect other people.
Are you in?