Why is it that every now and then we judge each other? And why is it that we sometimes look down our noses at another person, or make critical commentary to each other, even about strangers?

We only have the right to judge when we’ve been asked for our appraisal, or we’re being asked as experts in some area to evaluate others. For example, while American Idol’s Simon Cowell seems harsh, he has the expertise and the mandate to say what he thinks about a contestant’s singing or choice of song.

We all have our own standards for how we choose to live, dress, conduct ourselves publicly, etc. But it’s not our place nor our privilege to try to force our guidelines on others. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything somebody else does, but unless it’s hurting you, themselves, or others, it’s basically none of your business.

A very common area in which people judge others concerns parenting styles. For example, you may have read in several books that putting babies to bed at “a reasonable hour” will help them sleep better through the night. And, perhaps, following this advice, your baby sleeps quite well. But it’s not for you to admonish your friend who lets her baby stay up all hours.

Now if she complains to you that her baby isn’t sleeping well, you can tell her what you’ve read, and explain how it works for you. Perhaps she’s never read anything on sleep. But educating her, at her request, is very different than judging her. When it comes to parenting styles, I have learned (and only through personal experience) that the “right” and “best” ways are unique to each family. Whatever works best for you is the way to go.

It’s different when we talk about romantic relationships. Say one of your girlfriends has hooked up with a married man. It would be showing concern if you sat her down and discussed this relationship with her. Hopefully, you could open her eyes to the damage it could cause her, not to mention his unsuspecting wife and family. But to just sit back and judge her, sharing your opinions on the matter with other friends, makes you look ugly and helps no one.

Make no mistake: What most people want from others’ observations is encouragement. Anything else, when unsolicited, is judgment.

Latest From ...