My Name Is Iden | Put aside your judgement
- Published: September 28, 2023
Anyone who spends any amount of time on any social media platform has seen them.
That person in the comments who just cannot resist. That person who knows more and knows better. That person who can justify any rudeness to share their righteous truth.
I have been on the receiving end of many rude and hurtful comments. I’ve been told that my soul is going to hell, that I am the worst artist in the world, that I am not in my right mind, that I am dangerous, that I am disgusting and belong in an asylum.
I have heard all of those things and worse and I have wanted to respond in kind. Why shouldn’t I? I mean, what sort of a**hole would say those things to someone they don’t even know? And that’s the problem. It is so easy, so tempting to judge another person. None of us are immune to this. All of us have been guilty of it. All of us have been in the grocery and seen a misbehaving child and their incompetent parent. All of us have been cut off in traffic by some crazy idiot.
Are we right about those people? Maybe. It is possible that that parent is incompetent and that that driver is an idiot, but it is also possible that we don’t know. We don’t know what has led to the circumstances we are witnessing, but most of us will casually pass judgment on a fellow person based on the brief snapshot of their lives that we’ve seen.
Those examples may seem trivial. They are trivial when compared to the larger issues dividing our country. However, the act of judging another person, despite our thorough ignorance of them, is not.
All big things begin as small things. Even the universe started its life as a tiny, dense ball of possibilities. The small negative actions that we take will grow. They will grow because we make them habit. It isn’t that far to go from declaring that an inattentive driver is stupid to a shouting match over immigration policy at Thanksgiving.
I’ve been a first responder for decades. Anyone in that business will be familiar with the phrase “these people.” “These people” are filthy. “These people” are stupid. “These people” are trash. I’ve said every one of those things and much worse. And for every time that I said them out loud, I thought them to myself a dozen more. “These people” may very well have been filthy when I interacted with them. They may well have just done something that seemed very stupid to me.
But those people were not trash. I judged them. I judged them the way that I judged people who were overweight, people who didn’t read enough, people who kept dating the same filthy, stupid, trashy guy. It was a mistake. I didn’t want to become that person. But I had. I had become that person and it wasn’t by chance. I did it through daily practice. It took a long time for me to realize it. In that time, I treated a lot of people badly. I always believed myself to be a pretty hot shot paramedic but one day it finally hit me. It didn’t matter how much knowledge I carried or how sharp my skills were. If I treated people like trash then I was not a good medic. I was just an a**hole.
I realized that I had no idea where “these people” had been, what they may have been through, or what it meant to be them. How could I? I only knew one person that completely. Myself. I have tried my best to change that habit of judging. I have tried hard to stop seeing the people that I disagree with as “these people.” They aren’t “these people.” They are just people. What they say or do may be factually wrong. It may be offensive or even dangerous. That does not mean that they are bad people.
We, all of us, live in a country divided. It cannot remain this way. There are some dangerous untruths being told to some truly ignorant people, but we will never combat that with self-righteousness.
Ignorance must be met with teaching, not preaching. Your right may be different from my right. You may not understand something that I do and vice versa. That doesn’t mean that either of us is bad. You don’t know me any more than I know you. That doesn’t mean that we have to fear each other. That doesn’t mean that it is OK to hurt one another.
The last time I received the standard transphobic proclamation as to the fate of my immortal soul, I asked the person to message me so that we could talk. They did message and we did talk. They explained to me what they believed. I did the same and in very few exchanges this person, the same one who was convinced that I was a bad enough person to receive damnation, told me they understood. They were able to see my life in a way that made sense to them and they had changed their mind about what it meant to be transgender. I don’t know that the two of us will ever be friends, but I do know that we are no longer enemies.
It is not easy to put aside your judgement when so many things that are so wrong are said and done everyday. It is not easy, but with practice we can get there. This is a skill that can be developed and I believe that developing that skill is the only thing that can break the walls that we have been building.
It starts small. It starts with the trivial things. It starts by noticing and changing those little judgements that we pass on each other so casually. It starts with individuals committing to change themselves for the better and it builds from there. It grows until the entire world has been changed for the better. People are people.
We will disagree, perhaps on everything, perhaps forever. All of us don’t need to be friends, but none of us need to be an a**hole.
*The author is an artist and writer. She lives in Yellow Springs with her wife and three children. You can follow her work at mynameisiden.com.