Over the last few years, I have watched as many people have become more and more black and white in their thinking. There are good guys and bad guys. There are people who agree with us and people who are wrong. There are angels and devils. There are the saved and the damned. There are Bears fans and Packer fans. Once we have labeled someone, they are stuck in that container. How many times do we label someone based on one aspect of their being or one mistake that they made?
Think of the most stupid thing you have done. Think about your biggest regret. How would it feel if you were judged for the rest of your life on only your largest gaffe? No one would remember the good that you did. No one would take in consideration your great sense of humor or intelligence. No one would see or consider anything besides this one foible. Wouldn’t feel that great, right?
Now consider, how unfair and unkind is it of you to judge others on only their mistakes.
We are all human. We are created to make mistakes. We are by nature, fallible. One of the biggest gifts we can give to ourselves and others, is to be accepting, tolerating, and loving despite and maybe even because of our faults and failings. When we can love ourselves and others, warts and all, we are giving respect. We are giving space to improve. We are being realistic. We are being inclusive. We are providing a platform for growth and problem solving.
When we judge and label based on one incident or one aspect of a person, we are limiting their and our potential. If we only focus on the bad someone has done, we don’t see them as a full human being. Many times this is why prisoners are mistreated. All that is seen is that they broke the law (one aspect of their life) and are therefore bad. We don’t see their humanity. We don’t see that they were once children. We don’t see the people they helped out in the past. We don’t see their struggles. We don’t see the challenging situation they were born into. They are just labeled as criminals and sent away.
This does not mean that we excuse and accept bad behavior. It is ok and actually very important to create strong boundaries to protect ourselves and those we care about. And it is important to see and accept people for more than just one bad act.
If you find yourself judging someone, you may want to take some time to process why you are labeling them based on one aspect of their character. Why is it so important to you? Why does it hold so much weight for you? How does it feel to convict them for this sole action? How does convicting them also imprison you?
As you go about your week, notice how you are labeling and categorizing people by one aspect of their character. How does it make you feel and react when you focus on this sole aspect? How might you deal with them differently when you are able to open up to see them wholly? How do you think about them and react to them when you focus on more than one aspect of their being?