I’ve done my share of traveling around the world, meeting many people of different backgrounds, beliefs and walks of life. Everyone I’ve met has had their own ‘normal’, their own prejudices, their own ideas of the ‘truth’, and perceptions of right and wrong.
We all seem to judge others based on our own values, and we instinctively feel safer when others have the same ‘frame of mind’ as us- because that would mean less conflict. So we all unconsciously try to get others to think the same way that we do.
Yet if only we humans could seek to understand each other, we would begin to realize that there are many reasons why we will never all think the same way or believe the same things. There are many reasons why we should not judge others, but in this article I have highlighted just a few of what I think are the biggest ones:
1) Brain development.
In our brains we have neurons or nerve cells, which are cells that process and transmit information through electrical and chemical signals. The pathways that form between the neurons to connect them are called neurotransmitters – which play a huge role in linking different thoughts, ideas, senses, emotions and ultimately determining our behavior and influencing our understanding, associations, responses and actions. These connections are formed in accordance with our own unique experiences. This means that no two people’s brains have the same structure of neural pathways, because no two people have the same genetics, have had the exact same experiences or developed the same associations between thoughts, ideas, experiences, emotions and senses.
With this in mind, it is clear that with everyone forming their own unique perceptions of the world based on their own unique associations and experiences, that no two people will have the exact same view on life, or how to live it.
We all think that we know best, because we have all experienced and learned to cope with life in a way that is congruent with ourselves and our own lives. We also innately want to pass on our knowledge and wisdom to each other (which is a good thing), but unfortunately conflict arises when our perceptions differ. When we are presented with a view or perception that does not match our own, we often feel threatened by it or superior to it – leading us to judge the person in front of us.
Meantime, if we had had the same life experiences and genetic make-up as the other person, we would likely have the same or similar views, perceptions and behaviors.
Furthermore, the hormone differences between males and females also play a huge role in our development of thought processes – and even this is not as straightforward as we like to think. At least 1% of babies are born with both male and female sexual organs and hormones – suggesting that our brains are sometimes not as ‘set’ as strictly male or female as we have been brought up to believe.
Therefore from a purely biological viewpoint, we cannot judge someone else because our brains are all wired very differently.
2) Upbringing and life experiences.
Consider the family (or maybe lack of family) you were born into. Consider the immediate environment you grew up in – home, school, community, country. Consider the religious influences around you (if any). Consider the music you listened to, the shows you watched, the people you spent time with, the things you did.
Consider all the small, every-day things that became your ‘normal’ or your routine. Consider the rules, values, and laws that you were taught.
Consider the bigger, not so normal things that happened to you – negative and positive.
Consider the opportunities that were available to you in your life – good and bad.
With all of these factors taken into account, can you see how all of these things and experiences that are 100% unique to you have affected your views on life, your values and beliefs?
Now imagine someone having the exact opposite upbringing and life experiences to you. Can you imagine how different their views and opinions would be to yours?
We all have different experiences in life that affect who we are, who we become, and what we believe. As we saw with the first point, our upbringings and experiences have a huge impact on how we think and view the world.
In essence, no two people have the same reality, or view on life. We all have a completely different idea of what ‘normal’ is.
Personalities are complex. There are many models that have been created by different individuals to try help us define and understand the complexities of our differences. According to the Myers Briggs model – which is perhaps the most intricate and in-depth model for personalities – there are 16 basic personality types.
These types are determined by whether a person is more:
- a) Introverted or extroverted (how do they interact with others, and do they gain energy from social interaction or from being alone)
- b) Intuitive or sensing (are they more inclined to think about and see the world, gathering information about the world and people, through abstract ideas or through things they can see, touch, feel, etc)
- c) Thinking or feeling (are their thoughts and decisions typically influenced by thoughts or emotions)
- d) Judging or perceiving (Are they prone to planning and considering many different factors in their decisions, or do they take a more spontaneous approach)
All of these factors influence how we interact with people, how people and situations affect us, how we gather information, what we do with that information, how we make decisions, why we make those decisions, and what we allow to influence our decisions.
To make it even more complicated, even though we can all be classified as one of the 16 types, we all have varying levels of the factors that make up the different types.
For example, I am an ENFJ (extroverted, intuitive, feeling, judging). However, I am 51% extroverted and 49% introverted, 75% intuitive and 25% sensing, 51% feeling and 49% thinking, 65% judging and 35% perceiving.
This further makes everyone completely different in how we think, feel, act, and make decisions. These factors influence our interests, natural abilities and talents, and our tendency to be religious or not.
Therefore, from a personality perspective, we cannot make judgments about another, because we are all completely different and complex.
4) Not everyone has the support system, knowledge or ‘tools’ to help us heal or deal with hurts and negative experiences.
We have all grown up in different times, different places, and been shown different ways of ‘dealing with things’. We are taught how to deal with our emotions and how to react based on what we see demonstrated around us – in our homes, our communities, and our cultures.
The British typically don’t express much emotion compared to the Americans.
Those brought up in a religious context will be taught how to deal with life experiences differently to those brought up in a context with no religious affiliation.
A child who is abused and has no safe support system or protection will learn to face the world very differently to a child who is brought up in a safe and loving home. Their understandings of love, fear, security, life, people and their abilities to take control of their futures will differ. Their ways of dealing with circumstances – both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – will be extremely different.
Some of us are fortunate in having support systems such as churches or counsellor, or access to ‘tools’ (such as learning forgiveness or dealing with guilt) that help us work through our issues and influence how we approach life and make decisions.
Others are not so fortunate.
Some people have never been shown or taught what love looks like.
Some people only know fear and hurt.
If we can look at others with understanding, we will recognize that no two walks of life are the same. We never know what someone is or has been going through. Instead of casting judgment from where you stand, try to understand with a heart of grace where it is the other person is coming from.
5) We can never be sure or assume what motivates others.
One thing I have learnt over the years is that people usually have a ‘good’ reason for why they are doing what they are doing, or believing what they believe. These reasons might seem like terrible reasons to those of us looking from the outside, but to the person in question it is a good enough reason, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. Granted, these reasons may not always be unselfish reasons – but to the person they are ‘good enough’ reasons.
Other times, people feel powerless and do things they don’t want to do but feel unable to stop.
Yes, we are all capable of choice. But to make assumptions and judge others based on what you think you know can be dangerous and cause more harm than you may ever understand. Often we do not know the implications of our words or judgments on another person.
Never assume that you know what is going on in another person. You have not walked in their shoes, seen what they’ve seen, known what they’ve known or faced what they’ve faced.
I believe that the only way we will change this world is by trying to understand each other. We will never all believe the same things or think in the same way.
Our best bet is to learn to understand, and to learn to love each other despite our differences.
So next time, before you are about to pass a judgment on someone based on who you think they are, what they believe, how they are dressed, what they are doing, their addictions, sexual orientation or political views (or anything else) remember:
You have no idea the complexities of who they are, what they have been through or their motivations.
And most of all: you have no idea the condition of their heart.
So instead of judging them, seek to understand and love them.
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