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.