Are we too quick to judge?

Part of the premise for this blog is that I don't have all the answers, but I love looking for them. So I'm just going to talk out loud for a moment. I don't know if I have this right, but I'd like to talk about it.

Yesterday, I saw some exchanges on twitter and facebook that bothered me and I've been thinking about them since. One friend who is a fitness professional observed someone making a less than ideal breakfast choice and tweeted her dismay at their choice.  Other friends responded (directly or indirectly) criticizing her for shaming people for their food choices. 

 Image adapted from  Kooroshication  on flickr.

 Image adapted from Kooroshication on flickr.

Let me start by saying that I could have written either of those tweets.

I have judged people (sometimes silently and sometimes out loud) for their food choices and I'm not proud of it.

I have also judged people (sometimes silently and sometimes out loud) for one judgmental tweet or facebook status that they wrote and I'm not proud of it.

Reflecting on yesterday, I think the ideal response to the original tweet would have been to say: "Sometimes I have breakfast for dinner, sometimes I have dessert for breakfast. One meal isn't what matters, it is balance over time."  Not adding to the judgment, not judging her, just gently educating (which was likely her intent and the intent of those who replied to her, even if it didn't come across that way in either case).  Hindsight is 20/20.

My actual reply, which I'm not proud of, was: "I once saw a guy order 8 chocolate chip cookies at Starbucks at 8am. Thought maybe for a meeting he was hosting. But then he proceeded to sit down and eat them all." Yes, I judged that guy. I didn't judge him out loud (in person or on  social media) in that moment, but I did do so yesterday. Again, I'm not proud of it.

I'm trying to learn to be less judgmental of people based on one action (whether that is something they did or something they said). The article How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life is a good example of where things can go when we judge people based on one status update. Was her tweet wrong? Yes. Was the reaction to it (which I contributed to) out of proportion? Also yes.

Does this mean that I won't judge and that I won't call people or organizations out for bad decisions? No, absolutely not. But I'm going to try to save my outrage and my focus for patterns of wrongdoing, rather than individual instances. I'm going to try to pause before reacting and think about whether my response is a constructive one or just a knee-jerk reaction.

I say I'm going to try because I'm not perfect either and I don't want to make a promise I can't keep. I hope you'll forgive me for that.