Saturday, August 29, 2009

Using judgment for good

As an artist, especially as one with a graphic design background, judgment is a tool I use on a daily basis. So, it can be difficult to try to minimize the "bleed" of this requirement to constantly judge things in my work life. By bleed I mean how the habit or pattern of judging makes its way into my personal life.

I believe that we judge constantly. Situations are judged as good or bad, safe or dangerous, boring or exciting. People are judged the same. So it's a natural tendency we all have. I don't know if people who have to rely on judgment in the workplace have more of a tendency to judge in their personal lives, but I know that for me it is all too easy to slip into the role of judge.

Now, to be clear, I don't see myself as the judge, jury and executioner of every little thought I have about a situation or person. Not that I haven't seen myself in that role at various times of my life. I try very hard now to be conscious that I am judging things, people, places and situations. I then try to remind myself that unless I am using judgment for practical reasons (such as to make decisions at work), I need to stop judging whenever I can.

Judgment makes situations bad, people not worth knowing and your sense of self negative. It makes you less or more than other people. It makes your troubles greater, as it does the faults of others. It makes someone else's views less important or valid, and it makes you right and everyone else wrong.

Not judging allows situations and people to be what they are. An absence of judgment can make your problems manageable, and your own faults and those of others less glaring.

With judgment so ingrained in our day to day lives, it seems impossible to eliminate it. I'm not always successful in doing so. I just try to be aware that I am judging everything. I'm not always successful at that either, but I know I am judging less every time I catch myself doing it.

What I try to do when I catch myself judging situations is remind myself that it is my perception of a situation that determines how good or bad it is. When judging people, I try to turn that spotlight on myself. One can't help but notice what people do, and subsequently assign it a good or bad value. You may even say to yourself, "I would never do that." I find if I try to take what I see and then begin to judge to my own behavior and say, "I have to be more aware of myself doing that same thing", I don't follow through with judging that person or their behavior.

What brought this on? This topic? Yesterday, after my post about how hard it seems to get people to interact, I had to pick my daughter up from school. (And yes, I am aware that judgment played a part in making the observations I made in yesterday's post) I was more so than usual aware of my interactions with people. About half of the folks with whom I made eye contact, smiled and said, "Hi!". The other half were closed off. But that's not what brought this post to mind.

Gotta go further back for that.

Last year, at the end of the school year, my wife and I attended a little picnic for my daughter's class. There was a little girl there whose parent did not attend. She was seated near us. She was quiet and closed off from the rest of the group. I was right next to her, as we ate pizza, and tried to make conversation, as did my wife. She would nod responses, kind of tentatively, but she did not talk.

Later, I mentioned her to my wife, and we had both sensed a sadness in the little girl. That was our judgment. She may have been sad or not. She may just have not cared to really interact with the rest of us. Who knows. She is in my daughter's class again this year.

So, yesterday, as I walked my daughter out to our car, we followed behind that little girl and her mother. Her mother talked on her cell phone the entire time. It was a casual, personal call, not business. She walked many steps ahead of her daughter, with the only communication between the two being an occasional roll of her mother's hand to signal hurry up.

Now, of course, I'm walking along thinking just how crappy that is. But I catch myself. I don't know if this is their relationship in a nutshell. This may be the only moment that the two are not completely engaged with each other.

So, I turned the spotlight on myself. Do I do that? Do I take one of the few moments everyday that my 7-year old and I have where it's just us and waste it? I can't recall taking phone calls instead of interacting with my kids, but I suspect I have. I know that I have spent time thinking about other stuff, when I should have just been there, giving that moment my full attention.

I caught myself again. I had stopped judging that woman's behavior and used it to be more aware of my own behavior. My judgment of her behavior had led to me being more conscious in the future that I shouldn't fill the opportunities I will have to be with my kids with other things. I owe her for that.

Still, I felt bad for the little girl. With this type of interaction, how would she ever be anything but closed off to other people? How would she ever learn to just say, "Hi!"?

As both families entered our cars, the little girl turned, and while her mother went on with her conversation, the little girl gave us a little wave.


Shiningwoman, freelance artist said...

Your writing is insightful, beautiful, self-aware, and entertainng. Thanks for sharing. C.

Lisa Jo Perdue said...

Thanks for posting this. I've seen this same thing many a time at my daughters school...parents disconnected from kids, kids disconnected from parents, people disconnected from each other.