Posts Tagged ‘ human nature ’

The Invention of Name Calling

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Nine months.

I would love to believe that I am not at all judgmental of other people; that I don’t think or act as if I am “better” than any other person in this world. Because to my conscious knowledge, I firmly am convinced that is the case. In fact, I don’t want the responsibility of having to judge others- even down to a performance review of a coworker. If it’s up to me, I just want to stay out of any situation where critiquing someone’s value and worth in society is left up to me.

But it’s obviously not that easy. To think I am so not judgmental is, if anything, conceited: I’m no exception to human nature. Saying that I am not judgmental is almost as much of a paradox as a person bragging about how humble they are.

If I knew I was shaking the hand of a convicted child molester who just got out of prison, despite believing that God’s grace and forgiveness is more powerful than any wrong a person can commit, and despite that because of God’s grace and forgiveness I myself have been forgiven of “much lesser” sins, there would still be something in my subconscious that would judge that man even though I wouldn’t want to.

The reason? Like everyone in this world, I have what’s called “judge of character,” which is a very important and necessary trait to live by.

In general, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when my instincts warn me about a person, I follow them. And I need to instill those particular instincts in my son to serve as a guide in his decision-making processes throughout life.

What I don’t want to teach my son is to think, however, is that he is ever cooler, more physically attractive, richer, or simply “better” than any other kid.

So really, the question is this: What’s the difference between being judgmental and having a good judge of character?

I believe it has a lot to do with whether or not we generalize another person as “good” or “bad,” or if they are “better” or “worse” than we are, in an overall sense.

Recently, as I was pulling my car out out from where I work onto a road with a 35 mile per hour speed limit, I saw that there was another car coming. But based on my learned perception, I wouldn’t have slowed down the other driver at all; if they were going anywhere near the speed limit.

Turns out, the person in the other car was driving somewhere around 55 miles per hour and had to cross a double line to pass me to keep from running in to me. Then the driver did the same thing to the car which was in front of me, which was also going the speed limit. By the time this speedy driver passed that second car, they had to immediately stop; there was a red light.

Whether or not I said it out loud, I know I at least thought it: “What an idiot! This person is so stupid!”.

Right through the red light, just about one block away from where I pulled out from my employer’s parking lot is KinderCare, the exact place I was going to pick up my son. Interestingly enough, the speedy driver had pulled into KinderCare right before me. She got out of the car and walked in. I followed only feet behind, then stood there waiting on her so that I could “clock out” my son on the computer.

I think it was more awkward for her than it was for me, but she mustered up a hello along with a smile, as if her daredevil driving stunt hadn’t just happened.

This same “idiotic” and “stupid” person who had without a doubt put herself and others in some serious danger, only to be stopped by a red light and ultimately only beat me by 7 seconds to KinderCare, is also a wife and mother. The truth is, I’m sure her abilities to raise her child are nothing like her ridiculous driving habits. I’m sure she’s a very decent woman and a wonderful mother.

Yet I labeled her as a stupid and idiotic person, based on just one of her actions.

For a guy who doesn’t want to teach my son to be judgmental of others, I’m sure there are plenty of other examples where I negatively label a person overall because of only one thing I see. Who else do I think is a stupid idiot, and for what reasons am I superior in some minimal way?

I am not ashamed of my “judge of character,” but starting now, I am attempting to make a habit of not generalizing people as good or bad, based on a solitary trait. I want to make a conscious effort to refrain from calling people names; because after all, it’s pretty juvenile. If through my speech habits I teach my son to call other people names, then I want them to be good names.

If I want to set out to be less judgmental of others both consciously and subconsciouly, this is my starting point.

Granted, I’ll never be completely successful at this new “no name calling” campaign. But surely I can improve. I just need to be careful not to begin thinking that I am better than all the people who still call others names. (Insert laugh tracks here.)

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