I think it is quite natural for us to judge people especially unconsciously based on our own standards.
Everyone has a capacity to carry out an activity, a capacity to express a feeling- an emotion. The fact remains that no one will do more than they can. We are created to act, express and function within the limits imposed on us by our individual abilities. The limits imposed on our personalities and abilities are influenced by so many factors.
One cannot do more than he is physically or psychologically able to, no matter how much s/he will like to. For this reason, attempting to explain the reasons for people’s limitations and inabilities may be unfair to them. Totally defeating the main aim of judgement which is fairness justified through the complete availability and knowledge of the facts pertaining to a case.
Some of us fall short of standards expected from us for various reasons. Ignorance and heartbreak rank highest on my list. The constant sadness and disappointment that characterises broken relationships can lead to heartbreak. As a result of this feeling, some people may decide to safely avoid investing the time and effort required when forging real connections (causing an inability to socialise unpretentiously). While it may appear easier to describe them as wicked, it may not be totally fair since their actions are borne out of the need for self preservation.
Ignorance on the other hand can cause a total knowledge gap that can be misinterpreted as the deliberate cause of offence. Although we know that ignorance of the law is not an excuse, it sadly is one of the main reasons why people may fall short of the standards required of them. A typical example is that of Stan my brother in-law. He came to marry my sister in my hometown Ugboko – in Nigeria. In Ugboko it is expected that head coverings are removed by males as a sign of respect when addressing elders. However, Stan was not only from another tribe but also from a foreign land. He was an onye-ocha1 who of course had no clue about our tradition. He breezed in with my sister for a quick ceremony one afternoon. Without much notice, there was hardly enough time to acquaint him with our customs and traditions. In his ignorance, he wore an elaborate hat to protect himself from the merciless sunshine. Stan was quite ignorant about the fact that the disapproving stares he received during the ceremony was because of his inappropriate attire.
Although allowances were made for him as a foreigner, he unfortunately judged the atmosphere as cold and unwelcoming. After years of acquaintance with our people and culture through marriage he feels differently. He is now more aware of our omenani2 as well as the things we call nsor3 leading him to a different view about the events of that blessed day. In the same way, our judgement of him is more liberal since we all now realise that he sincerely meant no disrespect.
At times too, people are distracted by the events in their own lives. A house move, a new baby, a job loss, a past experience and the usual pressures of life can make people ignore our efforts to socially connect and preserve ties with them. Even though we continuously initiate such relations with them, we should resist the urge to condemn their inabilities based only on our expectations. The ones we place on them as a result of being able to reciprocate in the way we require them to.
Let us not ignore the fact that it is hard to care for anyone else if we are not in the appropriate headspace to deliver such attention. Some people can regulate their feelings very quickly, enabling them stop their personal shortcomings from interfering with their interactions with others. However, these are only a minority of people as majority of us constantly fall short.
By keeping these in mind, hopefully we will take people’s mistakes and excesses less personally, helping us relax our judgement. We are all unique and special in our different ways. Let us accept that not everyone will love and care for us in the way we wish to be loved (or even in the way we will love them). We can communicate our displeasures where necessary. With effective communication, we may be able to guide others on how best to treat us. We all need each other but we are not all perfect. We must learn to relax our judgement of others especially when it is based on our standards.
We will keep doing our best for one another but although it may fall short sometimes, we won’t stop trying.
So what do you think? Do we really judge people by our own standards or are there minimum standards we must all adhere to? Please share your thoughts with me I am really keen to hear from you.
- Onye-ocha – Caucasian person
- Omenani – Local traditions
- Nsor – Taboos