The Inescapability of Judgement

To each their own. Let that be the motto of the age. Tolerance and acceptance are the catchwords of popular culture. I was born this way, baby! To judge another is considered a great sin in today’s world and yet it is an inescapable fact of life that our actions and reactions to others are based on judgments that we make about that person.

Is it bad to judge others? Is it wrong to fix an image of someone in your mind based on the way you perceive them? Both yes and no. If I may split hairs here, there is a difference between judging and passing judgment. Without judging we would be unable to make decisions. Judging happens whether we know it is or not. We instinctively know that we’d rather not be in a work group with this person. We know that we would not get along with these types of personalities. Judging informs us on our personal take on or interactions with others.

Passing judgement on the other hand, deals with someone’s overall quality as a human being. Engaging in this activity, we place ourselves in God’s position.

What is important is where and by what criteria our judgments take place. First impressions are made within seconds of meeting a person. Why does this occur? It certainly isn’t a conscious thought process where we weigh all the data available to us. This initial reaction to someone is based on observation, context, and our own inner assumptions and biases. Since this instinctual process is inescapable let us instead change its method of operation. Moved into the forefront of the mind, let us take our first impressions and reevaluate them based on facts, not assumptions. 

When you first meet someone, you don’t truly know anything about them. There are certain things that can be implied about their personality and circumstances, but these implications are speculative at best. Very few possess the mind or observational skills of Sherlock Holmes to be able to project these implications into concrete knowledge.  Our first criteria, therefore, is to judge based on actions not impressions. Watching whether someone’s actions match up with their words is one of the best ways to know that person’s character.

The second criteria is to determine the motives of those we interact with. We have all known people who complain for the sake of complaining, who seem rude or disinterested, or who seem changeable and strange. Before judging someone we should weigh actions and words in the context of their situations. Things like stress, a death in the family, or a distracted state of mind can color a person’s responses. We have all said things we regretted, or become emotional over a misunderstanding. Realize that this happens to others and you will being to develop a deeper understanding of those people. You will begin to see patterns of behavior, things that set people off. And after enough observation you should make your judgement.

The final thing to keep in mind when forming judgments is to recognize the differences that others possess. Recognition of the various interests, viewpoints, and personal quirks that others have is important to forming judgments about them. This may seem obvious, but how many times have we read flame wars on the internet, or been laughed at or looked down on for an opinion on a book or movie? Recognition and understanding of why these differences exist is an important step in the process of judgement. You don’t have to agree with, or even respect the differences that other people possess, but they should factor into the cognitive formulation of your opinion.

Judgement of others is not something we should pass off to stereotypes and first impressions. People are much more complex than that and have a wide variety of thoughts, actions, motives, ideals, and likes. Only by taking into account all of these aspects of a person’s life can we truly judge them. And even after the judgment is made, we should be open to reassessing it.

People judge each other. Its a cold, hard fact. It isn’t always fair and it isn’t always right. By making the process of judgment a conscious activity we can reduce stereotyping, see things from a wider perspective, and truly begin to understand other people. Which-in my opinion-is the first step in solving many of the problems that exist not only in our social lives, but in the whole world today.










The Gift of Games

There are few things that can bring people together and break through barriers like a game can. This is one of the primary reasons I love gaming. The framework it provides for social interaction is unlike  any other activity. Whether it is a card game, board game, or role playing game face-to-face gaming is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to meet new people.

When you think about it, what makes meeting people and breaking the ice so difficult? For me it is the lack of shared experiences. Conversation and interactions are all based off of the experiences of each individual, but true friendships are formed only when those people share an experience with each other. Games provide that experience immediately by breaking through social stigmas and becoming a platform for interaction.

  • Games provide rules. Rules determine the “social norms” of the game and allow everyone to act and become comfortable within those norms. Since everybody knows them, everyone knows what to expect and how to act.
  • Games can often times provide a shared goal. Games that involve teamwork immediately give a reason for people to work together and interact. Even competitive games usually have a single goal that is wanted by all the players.

Games and game mechanics can also provide value in other ways. In Aaron Dignan’s book Game Frame he addresses the two causes or sources of the apparent apathy of many young people. First there is a lack of volition. Volition is the will to do something; it is what motivates us to take action. Faculty is our confidence that we have the skills and expertise to accomplish something.

Often times people limit themselves because they lack either volition or faculty. Games can change this by providing what Dignan calls “flow.” Flow is a state where a person’s skills and expectations rise at the same approximate level as the challenges he or she faces. If a challenge is to hard and our skill level too low it creates anxiety, whereas if our skills are more than adequate for the challenge then we become bored.

Games optimize flow so that when you first start out you are confronted with challenges that you can overcome with a limited skill set. As your skills grow so do the challenges. This provides a strong model on which to improve skills and confidence.

These are just a few things that games can teach us, and only part of the reason I love them so much. If you are interested in this topic I suggest you check out Game Frame or the work of Jane McGonigal.


What is valuable to you? Is it your possessions? That big HD TV or the car you drive? Is it your career, with all the responsibilities and rewards that come with it? How about the people in your life such as your parents, spouse, children, and friends?

Recently in a free, local newspaper I saw an article (a regular feature) called “My Style” about the clothes that trendy people in my area are wearing, where they got them, and how much they cost. The woman being profiled in this issue had an outfit that cost over $500!! Five hundred dollars for one outfit that will be out of style in a year. The dress portion of it alone cost $200. Yet I am sure that if you asked that woman what was truly valuable to her, that outfit wouldn’t even be in her top 50 things.

Then why spend $500 dollars on it? 

How you determine what is valuable to you is an important concept in minimalism. The minimalist’s concept of valuable includes things that help you grow as a person, that provide satisfaction, that helps others, and  that improve the quality of life for you and everyone around you. Value is determined not by the monetary cost of something or the difficulty in obtaining it but rather by whether it has a positive impact on your life or a negative one.

This is how you justify getting rid of expensive clothing, or selling that second car. It is because you have made a determination that the value that an object adds to your life is less than its negative impact (whether it be in stress, time, money, etc.)

Do the things you take the time to buy give you true value? Do the relationships you foster improve both parties involved? Do you waste money on things that ultimately provide you little substance or joy in this journey called life? If so, perhaps you should reconsider your concept of value.