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Topics: Ethical Living | Opinion

Let’s stop judging others during COVID-19

It’s no surprise that judgment is at an all-time high right now, but I'm trying to keep compassion at the forefront

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There is nothing like a pandemic to bring out someone’s true colours, and — contrary to what Cyndi Lauper would have you believe — they are not all “beautiful like a rainbow.” In fact, I wonder if Cyndi is taken aback by what she’s observed since this ugly virus took over the world. I know I am. While COVID-19 has highlighted extreme selflessness, it has also put a spotlight on selfishness. 

The term ‘Covidiot’ was even coined on Twitter to name and shame perceived idiotic behaviour during the pandemic. The list of infractions is extensive. Some acts are simply thoughtless and greedy, like stockpiling toilet paper and sanitizer, while others verge on immoral and even illegal, like price-gouging or reselling essential items at inflated prices. Some folks are simply inconvenienced, like those complaining they have ‘raw’ hands from too much handwashing, while others crowd beaches and host house parties despite laws prohibiting social gatherings.

Social media has become a hotbed for judgment during this pandemic, with many aspects of our personal lives open to scrutiny from close friends and family to distant acquaintances. But the funny thing about judgment is that we are judged (both online and off) no matter what we do or don’t do. It doesn’t matter whether we are killing it at homeschooling or eschewing it altogether; whether we are serving our families gourmet dinners or Goldfish crackers; whether we are wearing a mask or not wearing a mask, someone out there is judging us, or else we are silently judging them. (Heck, some of you may be judging me right now!) 

It’s no surprise that judgment is at an all-time high right now. After all, as Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy claims we are hardwired to make split-second decisions as a matter of survival — is that person safe or infected? Those initial judgment calls may serve an evolutionary purpose. However, we are also rash in our assessments of others, and we often get it wrong. Research has shown that we falsely attribute judgments to a person’s personality rather than their particular circumstance or environment. In other words, we may write off someone without ever having a clear picture of her or his motivation. 

More on Broadview: COVID-19 and the science of compassion

“We are more alike than different,” poet Maya Angelou famously said. Never has our commonality been more apparent than during this pandemic. We are all scared and vulnerable and stressed. But everyone copes differently, and that doesn’t necessarily make one person right and another person wrong. 

As a rule, I try not to cast the first stone, yet I’ve found it incredibly hard not to judge others at a time when lives literally depend on it. So when I catch myself judging, I try to shift my mindset. I try to keep compassion at the forefront and give people the benefit of the doubt. We never know what’s going on behind closed doors and, indeed, inside the minds of others. 

Faced with sustained social isolation and economic pressure, rates of depression and anxiety will continue to rise. Researchers predict that suicides are inevitable. As someone with a fair share of mental health challenges, I get it. Sometimes that person out jogging or picking up DIY supplies at the hardware store is simply doing what they can in order to survive

Judging others says more about us than it does about them. Bestselling author Mark Manson believes that we judge others most harshly in areas that are of the greatest value to us. Someone who prizes beauty may judge others based on their appearance, while someone who prizes family may judge others on their parenting. Since we cannot change another person’s values, we would do better investing the considerable energy we spend judging on helping others and looking inward. 

Ultimately, we have to leave the judging to “upper management.” The next time I feel tempted to trash talk someone publicly or privately, I’ll start with the woman in the mirror.

Broadview is an award-winning progressive Christian magazine, featuring stories about spirituality, justice and ethical living. For more of our content, subscribe to the magazine today.

Julie M. Green is a freelance writer and visual artist based in Toronto.

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  • says:

    Social media has become a hotbed for judgment

    That sums up the thesis right there, long before COVID 19

  • says:

    As a person who doesn't follow social media, my experience of COVID-19 has been quite different. I have actually been astonished at the outpouring of care and compassion in my neighbourhood and in some of the stories I have been hearing on the news. Sure, in the places where snap judgments fester, haters are going to hate and trolls are going to troll. All the more reason to look elsewhere.

  • says:

    I am following the guidelines provided by public health officials, to the letter. I am wearing a mask when I must shop for groceries, to protect others in the event that I am a carrier. I am watching friends struggle deeply after voluntarily closing their businesses. I am watching my kids and the kids of friends as they struggle with being apart from their friends. So, yes, I absolutely am judging the selfish and dangerous actions of those who choose to do the wrong thing, who put their own wants ahead of the collective need. I won't apologize for that. These folks do need to be called out for their dangerous behaviour, just as drunk drivers do.

    Replies

    • says:

      Drunk drivers get called out for their bad behavior? Really? Since when? Fact: There is more alcohol and substance abuse today than ever before in the U.S. Most people are out in public places drinking and partying like there’s no tomorrow. I know for a fact that the majority of those people get behind the wheel of a car and endanger not just their own lives, but many other innocent lives, including children. Some cause fatalities, some cause injury, some get lucky and make it home without either. But, I dare say, they still endanger many innocent lives and there’s a lot of people doing it. I don’t see those people ever being held accountable for risking their lives or the lives of others. Only if an accident actually happens. Prove otherwise. I’ll wait.