“Be curious, not judgmental.”
I’ve heard this quote over and over for years. It’s always seemed, like most omnipresent platitudes, to be well intentioned yet highly aspirational. It would be lovely if we could rid the world of all its negative judgments, I suppose, but from my perspective at least, totally impossible. We are all very different, coming from a plethora of unique backgrounds whose values and beliefs can often conflict.
And if we’re going to be really specific here, which I suspect some readers are, there are certain “negative judgments” that I think most of us would believe are necessary for making (or attempting to make) the world a better place (i.e. murder is bad, etc.) But I’m talking more about the less weighty judgments we make every day, about other people—the things they say and the manner in which they present themselves.
It’s hard to avoid judgment in our day to day lives, but I have learned that if you make a conscience effort to lessen it, and to open your mind just a bit more to the immense differences out there, life becomes significantly more pleasant.
I was reminded of this after comments came pouring in in response to the Charles Warnke piece that I posted, “You Should Date a Girl Who Doesn’t Read.” Though the bulk of them were positive, even complimentary, the amount of harsh criticism directed towards both me and Warnke was slightly alarming. To be sure, I don’t think criticism is bad, but putting it forth with aggression seems unnecessary. But it’s no secret that the Internet has provided society with a platform for its worst impulses, and often people’s bitchiest, knee-jerk opinions.
Those who disagreed with the piece often responded as if it was a personal affront to them, which of course was not my intention whatsoever. Whenever I post anything on here or write anything and share it with the world, I never mean to imply that my beliefs are the right beliefs, or that the opinions of others whom I share with readers are some sort of ‘gospel.’ No – this is a personal blog at the end of the day, one that I hope other people will occasionally relate to or find interesting, but not one that pretends to be setting the ways of the world in stone.
The fact of the matter is that you can always find an argument against, well, everything. If I were to spend time looking at virtually every angle that a piece of writing was to be explored, I would find numerous problems and never be able to get a word down. All I can do is come at things from my perspective and try to factor in other perspectives that seem relevant as often as possible. When I read other people’s work, I try to keep this in mind, especially if I disagree with what they’re saying. This is not to say that all differing opinions should be unquestioned and accepted as is. I believe that healthy arguments are great and can create really enriching conversations that often teach the two (or more) engaged parties something new. What I dislike is how those arguments tend to be channeled on the Internet. Instead of pulling apart the idea in a calm and mature way, we are so quick to simply attack the person who is putting that idea forth.
It is my belief that there is no benefit to that sort of hurried, angry discussion. I’d rather have you take into account that you will never fully understand my intentions in posting something, and not project imagined intentions onto me without first talking about it.
That strikes me as the most important lesson to be gleaned from the statement “Be curious, not judgmental.” Rather than assuming, ask. Be interested in how incredibly different my beliefs are from yours; don’t tear me apart for it. Try to get to the root of these differences, if you’d like. Don’t agree with me. But try to do it in a way that’s not defensive or angry. As someone who has been guilty of that many times myself, I know how difficult it can be to not stay stubbornly steeped in your own beliefs. But I’ve also started to learn, slowly but surely, that exploring different perspectives is so much more beneficial and interesting than simply writing them off as wrong.
So, as per usual, that’s just my humble little opinion. Does it hold any weight? Who knows…you tell me.