Prescribed Fires Don’t Change Prejudice

It’s possible to disagree with certain behaviors without judgment.

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I sometimes find it difficult to compassionately see those who chose prejudice. To me, it is a bad choice to discount a person because of sexual orientation or skin color or sex or anything that a person is born with or into. It’s also a choice that harms.

But I understand thin-slicing and why we do it. I also understand how difficult it is to clearly view ourselves, to go within and examine or re-examine choices that have become second nature.

It takes insight. It takes energy. It takes courage. It takes a willingness to be discounted by the group(s) that we belong to, and therefore it may lead to facing decisions that we are not ready to make.

For many, it seems like people who continue to believe stereo-types are simply not trying hard enough. Some take it to the extreme and believe that those who practice prejudice are assholes or stupid or lazy.

But these are people who were raised with certain values that are entrenched in fears that have been passed down through generations. Facing these tangles is impossible until we can see them. And it takes courage to see them.

As much as I hate the act of prejudice, I do not hate those who practice it. I try my best to avoid thin-slicing in every situation. And I believe that, though it might be easier to judge people who are stuck in old fears, judgment is never the answer. It does nothing to encourage people to change. Even when we’re dealing with people who will never change – even when we take away the hope that certain behavior will change in certain people – holding onto judgment as a comfort to ourselves does not truly comfort. At least, it doesn’t comfort me. It makes me feel icky. Because it makes me feel icky, I’m motivated to assess behavior and situations instead of making judgments about a person as a whole.

When we judge, we are discounting and dismissing people as a whole. The alternative to judgment is assessment. We can choose to view everyone through compassionate eyes, assessing actions and how those actions impact us or those around us. And then we can make choices based on those assessments. Assessing compassionately includes taking into account the motivation for these actions.

This is a judgment: Everyone who is prejudice is an asshole

Judgment often leads to statements like: fuck them

This is an assessment: That man is afraid to see openly-gay males as safe leaders

Assessment often leads to compassionate questions like: why?

It’s a completely different thought process.

A judgment is a judgment. I don’t think judgment makes a positive impact on any person. In fact, judgment, often incorrectly thought to motivate, sucks energy and motivation from a person. This includes judging ourselves, which we often take on after learning to judge through role-modeling.

I’m not saying that being compassionate means making friends with someone who holds values that don’t match up with my values. It’s possible to disagree with certain behaviors without judgment.

Author: tendrilwise

Hi, I have a diploma in Journalism, I've published a novel, and I am currently studying psychology. My odd way of viewing the world either gets me kicked out of parties or invited to them. Jenn McKay

10 thoughts on “Prescribed Fires Don’t Change Prejudice”

  1. Hey Jenn,

    I agree with your comments on judgement. I attempt not to be judgemental, but I have the potential to be judgemental on those who are judgemental. However after reading your post I will be a little more aware.

    I work hard at not allowing judgment to step into my critical analysis because then I get a narrowed assessment and steers me in a direction where data is not correct. Then i get judgemental on myself.

    I like to think that I am open minded enough to change my thoughts when I can see them. Although I will always be judge and jury when it comes the actions of others on myself. That I don’t even feel needs changing.

    You make a great point when you talk say, ‘these are people who were raised with certain values that are entrenched in fears that have been passed through generations’. I can make allowances for that. But I still question – why people don’t see love for what love is. How people don’t feel perverted by judging other people’s sexual preferences and no matter what colour any of us are, we have the same heart beat and bleed the same. I can really start to get on my high horse here. Great topic Jenn, you really made me think about not judging the judgers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rachel, thanks for reading and commenting. Thank you for sharing on Twitter.

      I agree that it’s difficult to see people who practice prejudice without judgment because prejudice is hurtful, and when you are empathizing with the people being hurt, it’s impossible to imagine why anyone could make the choice to hurt another. But that’s, honestly, where we get caught up in our own feelings (totally normal).

      Everyone had strong feelings one way or another about being hurt – whether we are able to empathize with those who are being hurt, or we cannot. I am grateful that I can empathize, though this brings challenges.

      Judgment itself is not a quality, but a way of viewing a situation, so it’s natural to sometimes judge and sometimes not, to find it easier to let go of judgment in certain situations and not others.

      I have judged and there are times I still do judge. But my goal is to always view those around me from a place of love. And I see judgment as an action that comes from fear instead of love.

      We judge because we want to distance ourselves from the behavior or opinions of the people we are judging. This is not good or bad. It just is.

      When I find myself judging, I take a closer look at what behavior I’m judging and why that behavior pulls at something inside of me. It’s a journey.

      Jenn

      Like

  2. Great read Jenne. I like how you have approached this sensitive subject.

    β€˜When we judge, we are discounting and dismissing people as a whole.” That statement sums it all up for me because when we judge people we miss the opportunity to care and love them. I think assessment like you have prescribed works better & I totally agree that we can disagree with behaviors without being judgmental. Judgment is just a recipe for suffering because it begins with our dissatisfaction over how a person happens to be and mix in our desire for them to be otherwise. In the end when we judge people, it does not define who they are, but rather, it defines who we are.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Emeka, thank you for reading and commenting.

      What a wonderful outlook on judgment! I totally agree that it creates suffering – not only for those who are being judged, but also for those who judge. And when we cannot accept others as they are (even when it’s really scary to do so), this can lead to a desire to change them or their behavior, which can lead to behavior in ourselves that is harmful – for example, anything that is an attempt to control another person, like shaming.

      I think it’s difficult to untangle the desire to protect ourselves and those we love or relate to in some way with the desire to give back to the community, to have a positive impact on the world around us.

      (Of course, I’m not saying harm should be allowed. If we see or experience harm, we must take action. And we can advocate for someone who is unable due to age or lack of experience or other reasons to advocate for him or herself, but judgment is not necessary.)

      It’s a journey. And I’d rather see a trend of people sticking up for those being bullied online (for example) than people watching and doing nothing. I think it will come around to a different model – a more love-based model instead of shaming the bully eventually. I think it’s a natural progression that comes with taking supportive action.

      When there are people out there doing harmful things, our natural instinct is to protect, to shield, to help, to rally. It seems counter-intuitive to accept these people as they are instead of doing whatever possible to change the people who are harming.

      But this assumes a responsibility for others’ behavior, a belief that we can change others. We cannot change others, we can only change ourselves and walk with those who reach for support. And to walk with someone in their pain instead of trying to fix the pain or the situation for them is empowering, because it lets them know that they are not alone and we believe that they can handle the pain and deal with the situation using their own inner resources.

      For those who are young or inexperienced and do not yet have the inner resources, we can support them as they build the resources they need.

      I think this is a better use of energy than judging and shaming anyone.

      But everyone has their own unique talents and viewpoints to bring into the arena.

      Like

  3. I also hate the act of prejudice. I don’t find any logic behind having any preconceived notions about any person. By having a fixed and oversimplified image of an individual, people find it easy to target the group the people.
    Instead of judging some other person, it is always better to judge our acts. Before raising any critical voice against anyone, it is always better to listening our inner voice.
    Thanks Jenn for coming up with this idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Yatin, Thank you for reading and for your comment.

    The nature of being human is that we are taught how to see the world and how to do certain things when we are young and impressionable. So, we grow up believing ideas or a perceptions of the world that were handed to us. Not necessarily what we would have chosen to believe for ourselves.

    If we are lucky enough to be raised in a situation that is loving and accepting of self and others, then it might be difficult to see how anyone could not be loving and accepting. Understanding ourselves and others is always a journey. But it’s worth it πŸ™‚

    And I completely agree – it is best to listen to our inner voice!

    Jenn

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  5. Hi Jenn,

    There are many points that you bring up in your article with which I agree. In fact, I thought your statement “The alternative to judgment is assessment.” put forward a good alternative to wholesale negative judgments.

    But I don’t see how assessing someone’s actions, and how those actions impact people has anything to do with compassion.

    Assessment is another form of judgment, but as you present it, it’s judging with kind eyes, kind mind and kind heart. Looking at someone’s actions in this way you look to understand their motivations.

    Compassion is concerned with the suffering and misfortunes that people are experiencing and usually there’s a desire to help them find relief. So when someone behaves in ways that are unwholesome to themselves and others, such as active prejudice and even violence towards others, compassion sees that they suffer and that their suffering causes them to behave as they do.

    Marshall Rosenberg has an interesting perspective on what causes people to do the things they do and attributes most of an individual’s negative behavior to their unmet needs. He founded the Center for Nonviolent Communication, with the goal of helping people connect compassionately with one another by showing them how to listen and communicate in ways that will bring about that connection.

    He’s got some great stories to tell and I highly recommend his work.

    Warm regards,

    Quinn

    Like

    1. Hey Quinn, thank you for reading and for commenting.

      I can see how you might think assessment is another form of judgment. For a while, I confused judgment with assessment. But without assessment, we aren’t able to make a valuable evaluation about people we meet.

      For me, compassion is a way of life, not simply a desire to relieve the suffering of the world. Loving is a way of viewing myself and others, even those who harm. In love, I evaluate instead of judge, and I do this to stay safe.

      Say, for example, I run into an acquaintance and as we were talking, s/he does or says something that triggers my central nervous system. At that point, I have to make a decision: do I want to bring this person into my close circle of friends, keep her/him at a distance or remain at the same level of closeness. This is a decision we all face when we meet people or when something happens that inspires us to re-evaluate a person we have known.

      Without assessment, a way to evaluate the actions and behaviors of others, we would have no way of making decisions about trust.

      I honestly believe that most judgment comes from a place of trying to keep ourselves safe. We judge to distance. But we don’t have to judge a person to keep an unsafe person at a distance. We do, however, have to be able to evaluate actions and behaviors in a clear and logical way, and then we have to have the tools to create and enforce boundaries.

      Without these tools, we judge.

      Jenn

      Like

  6. Hi Jenn

    You are most certainly right.

    I find it very weary to judge a person. Sometimes I see people judge others based on their strengths while forgetting they also have some weakness too.

    I agree that judging others based on their fears or weakness isn’t the best way to make a difference. I think change takes time and the best we can do is be patient.

    I love this post and thanks for sharing. Take Care

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Awazie,

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing on Twitter! You have been so supportive πŸ™‚

      I agree that it is also an issue when we judge people based on their “strengths”, or what modern society deems to be a strength… (or even assess on strengths alone.)

      Any limited viewpoint can be a disadvantage in one way or another.

      I think it all comes down to trust. Trusting myself, that is, to know how to listen to my gut.

      Because trust itself is a multidimensional thing. Many people probably already know this, but it’s a fascinating topic.

      Without trust, we have nothing “solid” to rely on, and therefore we are susceptible to perceiving a person based solely on his/her latest action or on seeing what we need to see at the time.

      Take it easy,

      Jenn

      Like

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