‘What a foolish decision!’
‘You must do this now.’
‘Don’t you know it will become this-or-that?’
‘I could have told you that would happen.’
‘Did you do this? Did you do that? Did you do this after that, or did you do that after this? Why?’
The moment we talk about a decision in our lives, or an illness, or a casual daily affair, there are people who respond immediately with comments like the above. They believe that as a responsible citizen of this wonderful country, it is their duty to point out others’ errors and to move mountains to fix those errors. They are also convinced that we know nothing about how this world works and it is upon them to teach us a few lessons based on their vast experience. They also like to gloat a wee bit later that ‘I told her to fix it this way.’
We flinch, and ask ourselves why in the world we had to start talking about it. Our murmured replies cement their conviction that we are ignorant folks who only add to the woes of the planet.
Those who know us better – even when they may not know the exact circumstances that led to our situation – may give us the benefit of doubt. Their questions – delivered kindly – are at least based on the belief that we can also think like they do, and that maybe we have considered all options, and that maybe we are intelligent enough to figure things out when the time comes. They take care to put their responses in a certain way so as to make sure that we are not plunging into a mistake out of ignorance. To be fair, if we like them, their queries are okay; if we don’t, they aren’t. In other words, we like them if they know how to respond kindly; we don’t, if they don’t.
Yes, everyone is well-meaning in this world, the only difference is how you make yourself appear in the light of a situation.
Why do we talk to those people who make us feel small? Sometimes it is duty. Sometimes we need advice – and those people are experts in their area. Sometimes we have to visit them for the sake of preserving social niceties and such, and one conversation leads to another. There could be many reasons.
Until a few years ago, it had been difficult to explain this feeling. You feel wretched after each dose you receive, but you could never reduce the entire episode into a single word. You could not quite decide whether your attitude and actions were wrong – or did they jump to conclusions?
Among the many things that the West has bestowed on us in the recent years is a small but significant word that had slipped past us unseen, unnoticed. A word that we hear in movies, shows, talks, everywhere and is increasingly entering our lives and falling out of our mouths. A word that just by its existence tells us that we are not the ones who are wrong; we are not the ones who should feel guilty.
And that word is – judging.
(Often followed by a flood of Unsolicited advice.)
She was judging me.
Why are you judging me?
Don’t judge me!
It is a relief to know that that well-known feeling of wretchedness goes by a clear, definite name. In that single word, we can compress the entire episode, and the listener would know what we mean.
We all judge others – openly and secretly. It’s in our flesh and blood. At one point in time, I am sure judging helped our species survive subarctic temperatures and such. But it is probably wiser to keep the art of judging to ourselves or to people closest to us. Today it might not quite help the cause of survival.