We Can't Judge
We, as people, are quick to judge others, but this is something we cannot do, because we cannot fully understand.
Judging by Appearance
We, as people, so often judge others. We look at people at work, at school, walking down the street, and just by their appearance, we judge who they are. If someone is wearing a certain style of clothing, or is listening to a certain genre of music, we automatically assume that they are a certain type of person. And you know, sometimes you're right, but more often than not, you're gonna be wrong. A lot of the time we avoid these types of people, because we assume they are bad people, or that their personality isn't a fit with ours—but in the end, we never know. We don't fully understand people, and we certainly never will if we only assume who they are by judgement of their appearance.
I had a really cool experience a few years ago that really helped me learn this lesson. At the time, I was doing a church service mission in Vietnam. I was assigned to the city of Hanoi, and our job was to help start new branches of our church and invite people to come visit. We were assigned a companion and we went off and did our thing. Me and my companion usually rode the bus to where we needed to go. The bus rides can often be long and it's usually crowded, but it makes for a perfect opportunity for us to share what we did and invite people to come check it out.
Now what happened on the bus next isn't intended to show you some crazy, miraculous story of faith or anything. It isn't supposed to convince you that my religion is the true religion, but my intent in telling this story is to show you a lesson of judging others.
Because we were in Vietnam, we obviously had to learn Vietnamese. Me, being part-Vietnamese and having already known the language, I had no problem. But my companion was fully American, and did not know the language so I made it a priority for him to practice as much as he could so that he could get it down.
On the bus we saw this kid. He was maybe about 18 years old, wore all black clothing, black eyeliner, was covered in tattoos, and had piercings all over his face. At first glance what would your initial reaction be? I'm not gonna lie when I say my initial reaction was 'Oh, this kid probably isn't a very good person,' and 'this kid probably isn't a person I want to be around.' I absolutely judged this kid the second I set my eyes on him. And that was completely wrong of me. I quickly realized that that was wrong, so I pushed those thoughts out of my head and then I thought about my companion. My companion was young, home-schooled, and very sheltered. He was the guy that would stand slightly behind me whenever we talked to someone big or with tattoos. He was the prime example of someone who judged by appearance, so I thought this was the perfect moment to teach him this lesson.
I looked at my comp and I told him to go talk to the kid. He immediately said no, but then quickly realized that it was the right thing to do. However, he was really hesitant, and he stood there trying to muster up the courage to say something. This was really tough on him, because first, like I said, he was still learning Vietnamese, and second, he was absolutely terrified of this kid and did not want to be associated with that "type" of person.
After a few minutes of standing there, I lost my patience and started a conversation with the kid. After another few minutes, my companion finally decided to join in and chat with us. The conversation lasted maybe 10 minutes, and there wasn't much depth in it, but the lesson learned was so powerful. It was such a small and simple experience, yet taught such a powerful lesson. This kid, who looked like a bad person, who people probably generally avoided, happened to be such a nice and genuine person. You might have expected him to be rude, ignorant, use vulgar language, or not care at all for small talk, but that was not it at all. He was kind, he was compassionate, he was a good listener, and a smart kid.
How would you expect his lifestyle to be? Maybe you'd expect him to spend his time partying, drinking, or doing drugs, or certain illegal activities, maybe even gang-related. But no. This kid was just working at a local shop to make money to help care for his grandma. Just by talking to him I learned that he was a caring person and a hard worker.
Just a simple conversation, yet I learned so much from it. By appearance, I thought I had totally figured out this kid, but after talking to him, I realized I was 100 percent wrong. This kid was not at all what I thought him to be. We are told over and over growing up that you can't judge a book by its cover, and that is so true. People are not at all what they seem and therefore, we can't judge by their appearance.
Judging by Past
I had another experience, extremely recent actually, that taught me another powerful lesson about why we shouldn't judge people.
I met this girl and one night I went over to her apartment. We talked for quite a while, and even though I was basically a stranger, she shared with me a lot of her life story. I don't want to go into details in respect for her privacy, but she had made some mistakes. Big mistakes. Mistakes that she was currently paying for. I could tell that she was struggling and just having a real hard time. But the important thing was that she recognized she had made those mistakes, and that she was trying to fix them. She had taken steps to be better and made goals to improve.
To me, it doesn't matter what you've done in your past. What matters is where you're going. Everyone has made mistakes in their lives, but those mistakes don't define us. You learn from your mistakes and you move forward, that is the important thing.
It would have been so easy for me to judge her by her mistakes, to say 'wow you did that? You must be a terrible person.' It would have been so easy to assume she was bad because of the things she had done. However, that's not how I judged her. I judged her by where she was moving. By talking to her and understanding how kind and caring of a person she was, and hearing about how she was taking steps to better herself, it made me realize that she was a good person. One who had made mistakes, but was still a good person.
When we judge people, we automatically assume they are a certain type of person. We don't take into consideration the lessons they have learned, and how they apply those lessons into their lives. We don't fully understand. Not only their appearance, but their past as well. It doesn't matter what they've done, but it matters where they are going. And that is something we all need to understand.