Why We Judge Each Other

by Bill Brenner on May 27, 2011

This whole debate over security curmudgeons has me thinking about our tendency to judge people. We all do it. I sure as hell do. But where’s the line between fair and unfair?

Mood music:

[spotify:track:25RpoTWuW0SBd9XBrGzY5d]

I’ve said my thing on that matter, and promised that my post yesterday would be my final word on the subject. So I’ll ask you to read those posts, which I link to above, for the background.

The rest of this post is about the class warfare we seem to live with every day. In security circles, it’s the “rock star” hackers vs. the suit-and-tie security execs. Elsewhere, it’s about judging different people vs. normal people, rich people vs. poor people, ugly people vs. beautiful people, normal families vs. dramatic families. I could go on into infinity, but you get the point.

So why do we judge each other? I guess the easy answer is that we have an irresistible urge to compare ourselves to other people. If we feel like shit because of what our lives have become, we want assurances that what we have is still better than the next guy.

If we come from a family of drama queens, we want assurance that some other family is ten times as bad.

In high school I was a fat misfit (the girth carried over to adulthood to varying degrees). To make myself feel better, I bullied kids I thought were uglier and more socially inept. I’ve been working to make amends for that in recent years, and have covered it more deeply in the posts “The Bridge Rats,” “Stiffy” and “Welcome to the Outcast Club.”

To this day, if I see someone who seems to fit some misfit stereotype, I gawk. I’m ashamed of that, but it’s the truth. It’s also hypocritical since I described myself as a misfit in that last paragraph.

It’s something I continue to work on. When I’m in a situation where I end up getting to know someone I’ve judged prematurely and my view changes, I try to keep that in mind next time I go to judge someone. I stop myself and think, “I know nothing about this person. I’m in no position to decide if they’re good/bad/weird etc. I was wrong about the last person I judged.” Of course, I still fail at times. I need to force myself to keep taking that step back.

I’ve really been digging the new Sixx A.M. album lately. Much of the subject matter is on how we judge each other and have stupid ideas of beauty vs. ugliness. I haven’t read the Nikki Sixx book it’s based on yet, called “This is Gonna Hurt,” but from what I’ve seen an important theme is in smashing stereotypes and valuing people on what they contribute to society.

At the end of the day, I think we’re all imperfect beasts who try too quickly to figure each other out. In that rush to judgement, people get hurt. Whole groups get hurt as well as individuals.

The question is, can we — collectively and individually –take that hurt and do something constructive with it?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Connie June 4, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Love this post! Really resonates for me… I ask myself that last question almost everyday. I make efforts to be kind to people that are my acquaintances who I prematurely judged, and turned out to be wrong. I also practice semi-regular self-Reiki (that’s a lot of – – -s!) and hope-believe that Love and Light continually heal.

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