Addicted to Putting People in Their Place

“As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to the need to put people and things in their “right” place. To the degree that we embrace the truth that our identity is not rooted in our success, power, or popularity, but in God’s infinite love, to that degree can we let go of our need to judge.”
Here and Now, Henri Nouwen

I am addicted to categorizing people and putting them in their place.

Let me count the ways.

If you don’t look where you’re walking in the mall, and you make me drastically alter my preferred path, you are a mindless, self-centered human being. If you disagree with me on a myriad of possible issues, I don’t consider the possibility that you could be right – I simply assume you don’t have the same information that I have, the crucial information, and are hopelessly wrong.

If you think the green and yellow Skittles are the best of the bunch, you might be going straight to hell.

But this says so much more about me than it does about you.

It probably says that I place a lot of importance in what I do, or what I have, or reveals my huge concern with what other people think of me. It shows how much stock I put in being right, or doing the “right” thing (darn that oldest-child syndrome).

From where do we get our identities? And is Henri Nouwen right in saying that the source of our identity often gives us a judgmental attitude towards others?

Could relinquishing this desire to judge be as simple as finding the right source of my identity?

13 Replies to “Addicted to Putting People in Their Place”

  1. When I was young, I was smart and I knew just about everything. Now, I’m older, wiser, and I’m sure I hardly know a thing.

    Now I question dogmatics and certitude.

    skittles? Well, I like purple and red ones.

    1. Good question. :) Can a life of nonjudgmentalism become a habit for me? I feel so much more relaxed when I’m not judging people. What say you, therapist?

      1. around what aspect? are you wondering if you can more automatically NOT judge people instead of the automatic way you (we) judge people.

        i don’t know. yes and no. what it makes me think of is that i see a lot of judgment having to do with control. i’m not sure what YOU mean by it being more relaxing to not judge others, but for me, it is more relaxing to not need people to be different, to let them be as they are, which i’m assuming is what you mean. and to me that’s a letting go of some aspect of control. if that’s the case, i do think it becomes easier to let go of control to have an impact on others being like you. this is a piece of my own process with this type of stuff.

        i doubt you’ll stop making judgments, that’s impossible. the mind just does that stuff. you can observe those automatic thoughts more and more in a mindful kind of way and not “buy into” them, or let them drive you. it’s also helpful to not go crazy judging yourself for judging others, you just say, “hmmm, there goes another judgment.” you don’t buy in, you just observe.

        i feel like i’m rambling cause i’m not totally sure what you’re looking for. let me know if any of this is helpful. if not, ignore. : )

  2. it’s this very thing that makes the “i already know a lot about you” jokes funny.

    we all do this. we just have to be aware of the line where a passing thought/judgment becomes an attitude or expression. something i have to work on everyday. surprise surprise.

  3. A few months ago, I had the honor of sitting on a jury.(believe me, it’s a mixed blessing). During the selection process before the court proceeding, I sat and listened to those wishing to be omitted from the final role call for the jury. On woman claimed that “to judge someone was against her soul” I thought to myself “Really? Isn’t it too late for that?”
    Then something else struck me. Yes, we all judge people. However, for many, the very idea of judgement has a negative stigma attached to it. For a few of those potential jurors, to be placed in an position of authority over someone in court and judge them was overall “unjust”

    Unfortunately, they miss the opportunity to justly serve in a fair legal system (not perfect, but fair). Even more, they missed the chance of possibly validating someones freedom and judging them as “Not Guilty” This can be rewarding, but only if your willing to take that chance.

    In or outside the court room, I might call someone a “nice guy who has a generous heart” or to a woman who returns a lost wallet to it’s owner, I might say “she’s honest and respectable”.

    Guess what? These are also judgments on another person. The idea of judgment is now in a very positive context.

    My point is, the idea of me or anyone else judging seems to have no value unless it has context. How judgement is applied makes all the difference. Every now and then, I just need help in my own selection process.

    1. very good point Brian. you are reminding of our bias and how it obviously clouds our judgments and that even our positive judgments of others is colored by our beliefs, experiences and backgrounds, making them subjective not objective.

  4. There’s non-judgement and there’s knowing what you, yourself, have experienced. The two are not in contradiction.

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