“Stop making excuses.” Heard that one before? We live in a society that values accountability, a generally positive concept that encourages people to take responsibility for their lives. But it’s crucial to consider uncontrollable factors in our assessments of individuals.
The degree of difficulty is often the most overlooked variable when assessing an individual’s merits or failures. Yet, it’s rarely discussed in contexts where it’s most applicable.
Resilience, resourcefulness, positivity, toughness, and being goal-oriented are all commendable traits. These traits, however, can also be used to unfairly criticise others. Our genetics and biochemical makeup significantly influence our personalities. Is it fair to praise someone for being fearless due to an underdeveloped amygdala, while labelling another as a coward for having a hyperactive amygdala?
To deepen your understanding of people, it’s essential to recognise the inherent flaws in how we judge them. Praise and criticism are like a pendulum that gains momentum as it swings in one direction – leading to a widespread issue of disproportionate judgement.
Since we can’t see or consider all factors, we should give people the benefit of the doubt for unknown variables. People don’t respond well to unfair judgement – whether it’s positive or negative.
For instance, consider a family with two children: Child A is an overachiever, while Child B struggles in various areas such as school, relationships, and behaviour. This family dynamic is detrimental for several reasons. First, Child B is likely to harbour resentment and negative feelings due to being constantly compared to their more successful sibling. Second, Child A may develop an inflated sense of self and possibly even perfectionist tendencies, as they are consistently praised and given more opportunities. Lastly, the parents inadvertently set up troubling dynamics among family members due to their contrasting parenting styles, which could have long-term implications for their relationship with both children.
When people feel the system is rigged against them, they’re likely to take matters into their own hands. This is often an adaptive mechanism, although the morality of such actions can be debated.
If you’ve never personally experienced a particular situation, you have several options for how to respond. First, you can listen and make a genuine attempt to understand the other person’s perspective. This shows that you value their experience and are open to learning from it. Second, showing empathy is crucial; it not only validates the other person’s feelings but also fosters a sense of shared humanity. Lastly, it’s important to avoid harsh judgement. Quick judgements can be damaging and counterproductive, hindering meaningful dialogue and understanding.
While it’s true that “All Lives Matter”, using this phrase to undermine the “Black Lives Matter” movement is problematic. Similarly, if you’re a BLM supporter who dismisses the concerns of other groups, you’re engaging in hypocritical behaviour.
We all face challenges, and the key to societal improvement lies in our ability to understand and contribute to others’ success. Your specific struggle may differ from someone else’s, but the underlying grief could be similar, forming the basis for genuine connections.
The next time someone shares their struggles, listen. Don’t downplay their concerns by comparing them to larger issues, as this only perpetuates the cycle of dismissal. Understanding the complexities of judgement and fairness can lead to a more empathetic and just society.
Joseph Hoffman is a student at Old Dominion University and founder of MyConsiderations