The Art of Being Judgemental

I had to stop what I was doing to write this post because what I have just read stopped me in my tracks.

My retired parents are, as we speak, embarking on a cross-oceanic cruise where there will be no land in sight for days on end. Presumably this has made them reconsider the fate of the Titanic because I just received an email from them.

This email told me where to find their Will should they suffer a similar fate to that of the previously mentioned cruise ship. It also assured me that their grandchildren (one of which being my child) were catered for in their Will provided that… and here’s the crunch… they have no tattoos or criminal records by the time they are 25yrs old.

Now a criminal record I can understand, if my daughter were to become a jewel thief she would hopefully excel at her chosen profession and so would need no further money to add to her acquired wealth. I get that.

But tattoos? Ok, if she were to take up safe-cracking as a hobby I would suggest to her not to get a tattoo as this would make her more memorable to any witnesses. That’s good, practical thinking.

But to be excluded from a Will because she has chosen to decorate her body and express who she is? I find that not only laughable but insulting. The judgement on my parent’s behalf has categorised my daughter’s entire repertoire of character traits into a category labeled ‘bad’ and ‘untrustworthy’. My parents have stated that if she were to get a tattoo she would be unworthy of their postpartum consideration or love.

How exactly would the inheritance meeting play out? Would the executor politely ask everyone to strip down naked so that he or she could examine our bodies for any tell-tale signs of naughtiness and immoral behaviour? And when one unfortunate person (let’s be honest it would be myself and my daughter) were discovered, would we then be asked to leave the room? Told politely that we were now out of the circle of trust and must only watch sadly through the window as my siblings are allotted their share of thoughtfulness our parents bestowed.

I must forgive my parent’s their generational prejudices though – because we are all guilty of judgement. The other day I was cashing in my birthday gift pedicure, and sitting next to me was a semi elderly lady who was clearly well-off. I heard her superficial conversation with her therapist and I immediately judged her as having experienced no seriousness or true hardships in her life. I pictured her as someone who had married into wealth and had led a pretty care-free life.

I then sat smugly in my own chair thinking how much better I was than her.

But I am a relentlessly friendly (and curious person) and so towards the end of our treatments I struck up a conversation with her. Within 5 minutes I was ashamed and reminded again at how easily we judge others purely on appearance. It turns out she was an Australian visiting her South African family, she had been a teacher most of her life and now was semi-retired. She now donated her time teaching through various charities. Did I feel like a right pratt or what.

And that’s the thing – pretty much 99% of the people on our planet (there are a few nut balls) are all just ordinary people, with the same hopes and dreams and sadness that we ourselves experience. They love, the fear, they strive. The package that they come in – whether male or female, short or tall, fat or thin, tattooed or not – it does not define their soul or their character. Too many times to count I have missed out on meeting an extraordinary person because I presumed they were something they weren’t.

A friend of mine once asked me what my worst trait was, he told me his was presumption. I now know what he meant.

And so, today I pledge this: I will never again presume to know another person unless I actually know that person. I will take the extra 5 minutes that is required to see beyond the packaging the stranger is presenting, and reserve my opinions and judgement on actual behaviour, and not on a perceived history I have just concocted.

I further pledge to test out the full range of make-up concealers available on the market so that all tattoo’s can be properly hidden, in preparation of a day which is (hopefully) far in the future.

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