Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Passing Judgments: Harmful if They Pass Right On Through?

Filed under: Motivation — by at 11:17 pm on Monday, July 21, 2008

The World's Stage at Surrey's Fusion Festival

This weekend Darrell and I enjoyed Surrey’s inaugural Fusion Festival – a celebration of music, food and dance. Saturday evening was a free performance by six-time Grammy award winning Irish band The Chieftains. We arrived extra early to ensure we had a space on the raised viewing platform. I parked my scooter beside an elderly Asian woman slumped down in a manual wheelchair.

The woman briefly responded with her sunken eyes when I pulled in beside her, and then her attention returned to wherever it was previously. She was fully covered in a blanket and a scarf, despite the day’s heat. All I could see was her frail face with lines of wisdom. I sensed her eyes had seen much in her lifetime. I felt honoured to sit beside her.

Her daughter, daughter-in-law or niece-type-person returned to care for her. I moved to Darrell’s other side to give the pair more room. The elderly woman did not move; she was moved. Juice was poured into her mouth; she did not drink. She was repositioned and recovered. All was done with gentle tenderness, and without any response in returned.

Then she smiled the purest smile I have ever seen. At her age, she has no need to fake a smile to impress people, to be liked. It was a smile of joy in that brief, fleeting moment; like a light that flickers before going dark for the final time.

A tinge of guilt then crept through me. Without knowing anything more about this woman than what I had witnessed in those few moments, likely a blink of an eye in her lifetime, I assumed that life had ceased to flow in her, that she was down to her last trickle – and that I wouldn’t want to live like that. I had done to her what I wish others wouldn’t do upon seeing my jerky, awkward movements and hearing my unintelligible voice: I had passed judgment.

I then began wondering if it is possible to not pass judgments, if we are truly honest with ourselves. Are we humans that evolved and enlightened not to judge others, even occasionally? Or, perhaps, what really matters is what we do with that judgment? Do we proceed as if that judgment is true? Or do we acknowledge that judgment and look deeper to see beyond?

What do you think? Is it possible for humans not to pass judgment? Or is the key to allow that judgment to continue passing through our mind and right on out the other side?

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Joanna Young

July 22, 2008 @ 12:36 am

What a beautiful and thoughtful piece of writing Glenda. Your description of that smile is very moving and powerful. I can feel its light from here!

I think you’re probably right, we do make judgements all the time even if they’re just flickering away quietly in the background. Even in positive ways we might think someone’s smarter or more successful or prettier or thinner or ‘not like us’.

I guess the trick is not to act on that judgement, and to keep our minds open to other possibilities (including the possibility of being wrong)


Comment by Karen Putz / DeafMom

July 22, 2008 @ 4:49 am

Glenda, this was a moving post. I think you hit on a very human thing, we all do pass judgment. It’s what we do with it and how we handle it that determines whether or not it is expressed and passed on.

Comment by AnneShirley Manion

July 22, 2008 @ 7:40 am

Glenda, I think you are correct as we all tend to do this and many times our thoughts are incorrect. Sometimes it can be just by judging by how someone is dressed or what kind of makeup they are wearing even when they don’t have a disability. We really have to look deeper. Some people have disabilities that are not apparent too.

Comment by Worg

July 22, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

Not pass judgement? Isn’t that the same as not being rational? “That man looks dangerous” is a judgement that we pass whenever we walk up a dark street. Judgements like that keep us alive. To “not pass judgement” is stupid.

The trick is to revise your first impressions when proven wrong.

Comment by Al at 7P

July 26, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

Hi Glenda – I just came over from Liz Strauss’s Blog-to-Show, and I’m very happy I found your blog!

This was a very thought-provoking article. I think that it’s indeed human nature to try and fill the gaps of knowledge in our minds whenever we encounter them.

For example, we thought for the longest time that the sun revolved around the earth. We didn’t observe enough to make that proper conclusion, but based on what we could see without telescopes, it seemed reasonable. We needed Copernicus to bring to light some more observations to make us change our minds.

Same with the experience you had with the Asian woman. It’s human nature to fill our gaps of knowledge when we encounter them.

However, you also use the word “judge”. I think that’s key. It’s one thing to make assumptions and I argue that’s human nature. I think that we also bear the responsibility of recognizing when this happens and to make sure we properly take into account what are unverified assumptions when we do make judgments.

Just wanted to reiterate how nice that I went through Liz’s list to find your blog. Keep up the great writing!

Comment by Urban Panther

August 1, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

Hi Glenda. I have taken a trip over here from Al’s site. This is a beautiful story and a beautiful reminder to us all. I have left my thoughts on snap judgments on Al’s site, but I would like to comment on something else that jumped out at me. “At her age, she has no need to fake a smile to impress people, to be liked.” This is an excellent reminder as well. No matter what age we are at, do we really need to fake a smile to impress people? I like to think that all my smiles are genuine, but now I’ll be paying closer attention.

Comment by Glenda

August 1, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

Thanks everyone for your insightful comments. The moment has stuck with me and given me much to ponder.

I am rethinking what I’ve been saying for years about don’t make assumptions, don’t pass judgments. As Al says, those judgments fill in the gaps, until we know more. I’m now thinking that the key is what we do with those those assumptions and judgments. Do we act upon them as fact or do we dig deeper to fill in that gap will more details, more accurate information.

The apparently frail woman has taught me an important lesson. And, for that, I wish I could thank her.

Comment by Joshua Taylor

June 28, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

Asian women are cute and good mannered. they are very caring too.”:-

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