Judging is intrinsic to human behavior. We judge other people to assess the harm that they pose to us – it is our animal instinct at work. The act of judgment aids us in our decision-making. However, when we speak of judgment in these terms, we are speaking of discernment. Discernment is the act of impersonal examination of a certain thing/person/event where a person does not allow his/her own morality to interfere. Judgment is more actively personal. It carries a sense of condemnation and a measure of something being right versus wrong according to our individual moral scales. Judgment assumes a more superior position for itself and accords inferiority to the object of judgment.
Imagine a world where we didn’t judge each other. How happy and peaceful would human coexistence be? There would be fewer wars and fewer disagreements between communities.
When we practice discernment instead of judgment, we work for the betterment of society. Our goal isn't only self-improvement but the improvement of our peers and the people around us too. If only we practiced kindness and compassion more frequently than we did judgment, we’d all be able to work so much better together and achieve so much more.
More often than not judgment stems from lack of awareness and misinformation that we choose to subscribe to. We judge people who are different from us. Sameness is accepted, even encouraged by society. The difference is perceived as alien and unwanted. What we lack in this perception is a sense of empathy and compassion. When we are brought up to embody and treat others with sensitivity and compassion, we are not as uncomfortable in the presence of those who are different from us. We recognize this difference as natural and nothing to fear.
As parents it is our responsibility to ensure that the children that we bring into the world who’ll grow up to be tomorrow’s citizens are sensitive and wise. They should not participate in hate mongering and contribute to the world’s strife. Our children may not grow up the way we want them to, but the value system inculcated in them in their formative years usually is so deeply ingrained in their person by the time they mature that they aren’t able to shirk them off. If our parents aren’t compassionate and empathetic, chances are, we won’t be too. Children imitate their immediate adults, so as parents, you are at a vantage point to teach your kids to be kind and empathetic. The following steps should help in this effort.
Ask them for their opinion first and try to understand their point of view. Are they on the right train of thought? Are they thinking divisively or are they trying to be accepting of the differences that they chance upon. Do you sense that they’re curious of this difference or are they dismissive and unwelcoming of it?
If you don’t want your kids to grow up sheltered from the realities of life, acquaint them to people from different strata of the society. If you occasionally visit and do charitable work at a homeless shelter – take your kids along sometimes. The marginalized people who exist on the fringes of society are human beings too. They deserve as much kindness and understanding as does the ordinary person on the street. A person may have sinned in the past or fallen victim to unfortunate circumstances – this shouldn’t have to dictate the rest of their life. One can always work towards a better future and they should be offered the opportunity to. Teach your kids to recognize the difference between a sinner who is unwilling to accept their fault and one that is repentant and seeking forgiveness. When your children grow up, they should be willing to give the latter second chances even when they withhold this from the former.
When you take your kids to vacation in different countries, even cities – you create the space for them to sample new and unique cultures. These cultures practice different lifestyles. Encourage them to pick and choose lifestyle practices that they find attractive. Just because a person was born into a certain culture does not mean that they have to believe and preach their culture to be superior. Cross-cultural interactions enrich and enhance participating cultures. There is no such thing as cultural supremacy and your children should be able to think from an inclusive and welcoming point of view where they assess every culture as being at par and don't discriminate against any culture.
They shouldn’t grow up to confuse the two. When they do, they think of people’s expression of difference as good or bad. Some differences just are – for example, a genetically fat person. Your child should not blame this person for their imagined lifestyle flaws just because they know that could be a cause of obesity. They aren't aware of the real reason this person is overweight and for the same reason, should withhold judgment on what they don’t know. The individual’s genetic makeup is a fact which your kid’s opinion discounts. As their parent, you should ensure your kids don’t take to making snap judgments for they are usually factually incorrect and based on blind assumptions.
You may not like how an individual leads his/her life. You may not approve of their practices. Here’s where you are wrong. You may not like their lifestyle, but you are nobody to pass approval on it. That’s the difference between discernment and judgment. Discern all you want but be careful to not pass judgment. Differences should be celebrated as they add spice to our lives. What fun would life be if we were all the same?
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