It starts early. From the moment a baby looks up and decides if you're worthy of the smile, the judging begins. It continues in first grade with a glance askance at the girl sitting next you as you decide her new shoes aren't up to snuff. The disdain on your face is witnessed by someone nearby who nods approvingly at you. And from that point you are off, floating by on your superior cloud, casting petty aspersions on those who fall short. It may be a raised eyebrow, an eyeroll...if you're still in high school. The gestures and barbs become more sophisticated in a perversely underhanded way that leaves the victim unsure if your laughter is genuine or if she was just made fun of to her face. The weak wither under the onslaught, skulking back in their ill-fitting clothing to their undesirable zip code. The strong fire back, perhaps launching the opening salvo at the next encounter, fully prepared to judge first. And the most confident ones are smart enough to never even enter the game. It's exhausting.
When I was newly married, I taught sixth grade at an exclusive girls school. I would take great pains with my wardrobe, trying not to repeat my outfits, and always making sure my shoes matched perfectly. "Why do you care so much?" my husband would ask, "They're only eleven."
"You don't understand, they're professional students. They can sniff weakness...any kind of weakness."
Even years later, my husband still quotes that line, fascinated by the fact that eleven year olds can be professionals at anything.
We're taught as children not to judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway. It's certainly easier to look at someone else and find them lacking than it is to turn the microscope on ourselves. And it's certainly easier to decide we know everything about someone before they've even opened their mouths. And now we've become a nation of judges with the ability to cast our vote on any talent show of our choice. It's a demeaning cycle and an incredible waste of energy. And pretty much we've all played judge and have felt the sting of judgment. Obviously I have something on my mind and I'm skirting the issue because well...I don't want to judge. I simply want to remind everyone to act kindly and give one another the benefit of the doubt. I know I surely would appreciate it.