Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nine Things That Will Not Make Me Judge You

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post entitled, “Nine Things That Make Me Judge You.” Little did I realize that it would become the most popular post on the entire blog, far outstripping the Fourteenth Amendment post from last summer and going viral in a way that I hadn’t seen since the mid-90s, when something I wrote on Usenet came back to me in an email three days later, without attribution, because a friend saw it and thought it was funny.

It’s always nice when people like what you write.

I’ve thought a lot about that post since then, and it occurred to me that there ought to be something said on the other side of things. Judging people is a necessary part of life, but sometimes you have to know when not to judge them, too.

I will not judge you if ...


1. You make a fool of yourself for love.

I may tell you that you’re being a fool. I will definitely hold you accountable for the consequences of your actions, to you and to others. But what else is love for? If you can’t do stupid things in the name of love, you have bigger problems than seeking my good opinion.

2. You change your mind in the face of contradictory evidence.

This used to be called “intelligence,” but recently it has gotten a bad name as “flip-flopping.” This change is a steaming pile of nonsense, and we are worse off for accepting it. You go where the evidence takes you, even if it takes you where you never thought it would, even if you have to backtrack across half your life.

3. You fail.

Failure is a normal part of life – and more normal for some of us than others, really. Own it. Learn from it. And try again.

4. You get lost in a good book.

Sleep is important. Getting to appointments is important. Getting your work done is important. But sometimes you just get carried away by a story and it all goes by the side. You’ll have a lot of things to make up when it’s over, but that’s what tomorrow is for.

5. You have no dignity when it comes to your children.

I once sat in a park and watched a man play with his young daughter, who was maybe three years old. This man must have stood about 6’3” and weighed in around 240 lbs, all of it muscle. He had tattoos that had tattoos of their own. He looked like the kind of man who puts out forest fires by glowering at them. And there he was, playing “princesses” in the sand.

That, my friends, is a man.

6. Your beliefs, positions and/or faith are not the same as mine.

The world can barely deal with one of me – billions would just fry the circuits of the place. I may not like, agree with, or (in some cases) particularly respect your positions, but so long as you’re civil about it and don’t force them on me or mine, I can return the favor. Who knows? If you can provide me with enough evidence contradictory to my own position, maybe I’ll change my mind.

7. You love whom you will.

What two consenting adults do with each other is, barring extraordinary circumstances, their own concern. It astonishes me how many people there are in this world who get mistreated by uninvolved third parties because of who they love. Who you love matters far less to me than how you treat them and how they treat you.

8. You have seriously screwed up in the past.

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying. And sometimes, those mistakes are doozies. Accept that people can twist their lives into knots, and help them untie them. There are too many people in this world who only want to make those knots into nooses, and that’s just not right.

Don’t tell me who you were. Tell me who you are.

9. You lack credentials.

I have a PhD in American history.

This implies a certain number of things. I have a certain skill set, one not widely distributed among the general population. I have a deep reservoir of specific knowledge. And I have the discipline and work ethic to see a complex project like a dissertation through from inception to completion.

It does not imply certain other things. I am not necessarily smarter than you are. I may not necessarily be right, even in my own field (see point #2, above), though your task convincing me of that is not an easy one, given the work I’ve put into my positions already.

If you want to play the credentials game I can do that, and I’ll probably win - the PhD isn’t the only credential I have. But this game has always struck me as pointless. Some of the smartest, most respected, and most effective people I know have no letters after their names at all, and a disturbing number of people I’ve known with all sorts of credentials are either idiots, slimeballs or both.

Tell me what you know, tell me why you do what you do, and tell me why it matters. The rest is just scorekeeping.


vince said...

Your “Nine Things That Make Me Judge You” post was brought to my attention by a friend who reads your blog. I agree with her that it's excellent, and I wish I had written it.

This post is just as good.

David said...

Thanks, Vince. I appreciate it.

Janiece said...

David, why don't you live closer to Colorado? ;-)

David said...

If I ever get out that way again, Janiece, I'll definitely let you know :).

And you as well, if you find yourself in Wisconsin.

Beatrice Desper said...

Your parents should be proud. And you should, too. And Kim must be amazing. Birds of a feather...

Anne C. said...

Just had this and its sibling post recently pointed out to me by a friend.

What if I am late because I got lost in a good book?

Purgatory, I imagine.

I'm OK with that, as long as I'm allowed to take a paperback.

"nesses" = Misspelled alien name

David said...

Hi Anne and welcome!

I only judge you if you are habitually late. Getting lost in a good book once in a while is fine. But eventually you learn not to start what you can't put down in time, at least not too often.