Though it is human to evaluate people we encounter based on first impressions, the conclusions we come to are seldom unaffected by our own fears and our own preconceptions. We see the world as we are, and not as it actually is. Additionally, our judgments are frequently incomplete. For example, wealth can seem like proof that an individual is spoiled, and poverty can be seen as a signifier of laziness — neither of which may be true. At the heart of the tendency to categorize and criticize, we often find insecurity. Overcoming our need to set ourselves apart from what we fear is a matter of understanding the root of judgment and then reaffirming our commitment to tolerance.
When we catch ourselves thinking or behaving judgmentally, we should ask ourselves where these judgments come from. Traits we hope we do not possess can instigate our criticism when we see them in others because passing judgment distances us from those traits. Once we regain our center, we can reinforce our open-mindedness by putting our feelings into words. To acknowledge to ourselves that we have judged, and that we have identified the root of our judgments, is the first step to a path of compassion. Recognizing that we limit our awareness by assessing others critically can make moving past our initial impressions much easier. Judgments seldom leave room for alternate possibilities.
Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you don’t have time to love them.” If we are quick to pass judgment on others, we forget that they, like us, are human beings. As we seldom know what roads people have traveled before a shared encounter or why they have come into our lives, we should always give those we meet the gift of an open heart. Doing so allows us to replace fear-based criticism with appreciation because we can then focus wholeheartedly on the spark of good that burns in all human souls.