Last week, I made a mistake. I judged someone.
And I was wrong about them.
I like to think that I know people. I like to think that I am aware of people’s personalities, their desires, their strengths and their shortcomings. To an extent, I am – not in a creepy way, but in a cognizant, perceptive way. While I don’t think that I am by any means a mind reader, I feel that I possess some level of interpersonal intelligence, just like most people do.
On the other hand, I know that I have good morals. It’s one of the few things I will admit about myself confidently – there is nothing that upsets me more than when someone violates my strict mental set of morals. Incidentally, I have been wanting to write a blog post about cheating, because it has been occurring often in my school and in my class. Just wait until I write that post to see how frustrated cheating causes me to become.
So imagine my surprise when someone who I thought had good morals, someone who I was not exactly close to, but at least an acquaintance with, was caught cheating.
One Direction disbanding. Nutella no longer being sold. The world ending. All of these apocalyptic events accurately describe what I felt was happening when I discovered that this person – who I had held in high esteem – had done something as senseless as cheating. I called my friends (no, not my imaginary ones… okay, maybe) and ranted to them, I listened to Taylor Swift, heck, I even was unable to focus on my schoolwork.
For a few days, I tried to give this person the silent treatment. I refused to speak to them, and when I was forced to, I resisted the urge to castigate them or criticize their actions. My behavior wasn’t so much an offensive attack against them, but a defensive mechanism for me. I was hurt that this person who I had trusted – though once again, not someone I was particularly close to – had taken my trust and proved that it was undeserved.
This all changed when I had the chance to talk to this person face to face one day during school. They had noticed how I had been acting around them, and I proceeded to initiate a conversation concerning what I wanted to get straight with them – mainly, the cheating incident. I wanted to know why they did it, if they had learned from it, and most importantly, if I was mistaken in allocating my trust in them.
It turns out, I wasn’t. Well, I was, as they definitely made a mistake by cheating – but I made one, too, because I assumed that this individual was a bad person and that I had no reason to respect them based off of one thing that they had done. I had to talk it out with them before realizing how irrational I had been. And here is the thesis of this blog post, the point that I’m trying to get across: I should have judged the situational factors of the incident more than I judged the person himself. I should have examined the fine print of the problem before immediately blaming them.
The sad thing is that I learned about this exact attribution error in my AP Psychology class (the fundamental attribution error). And yet I still did it anyway. I forgot that, when it comes to relationships, it is better to judge actions, and not people. That the situation plays a prominent part in determining someone’s behavior, and that a person’s personality is not the only thing that drives them to do things.
Just like how bad things happen to good people, good people can do bad things. Sometimes, it is not their fault. Perhaps someone assumes the role of the class clown, not because they enjoy acting immature or irresponsible, but because they feel pressured to because of their peers. Perhaps a girl wears risque clothing and goes to parties, not because she has lacks self-control or has no motivation to do anything else, but because she feels repressed at home and school and needs to express herself.
This train of thought, that one should not judge another without observing the environmental factors influencing their behavior, begs the question: how do we ever get to know each other, then? How can we truly understand someone, if we have to attribute all of their actions to their circumstances? Like the ever present nature vs. nurture debate in psychology, how much can we say is caused by an individual’s personality and how much can we say is caused by what is going on around them?
I don’t have an answer to those questions, but I do know one thing we should do – get to know people. We shouldn’t base our beliefs of others solely on their actions. Try to talk to people, and try to develop a deeper relationship and bond with them. If someone is a bully because they simply like abusing others, then, fine, that’s not okay – but if they themselves are receiving some nasty stuff from their peers, then it is not entirely their fault. I’ll sum up this post with a quote from John Steinbeck, one of my favorite authors:
What do you guys think of what I’ve written here? Agree or disagree? I’m so happy I had practically no homework today and was able to get this post off of my chest and onto my computer screen. Have you ever made a mistake concerning your judgement of someone? Have you ever been judged unfairly? I remember writing a post about the right to judge awhile ago, but after rereading it, this one has a different central theme and a slightly more personal tone to it. Now I must study a little and then go to bed… see you guys next time!