I want you to look at these words:
Judgment. Bigotry. Prejudice. Discrimination. Chauvisim. Antipathy.
Do you think they all mean roughly the same thing? Well, they don't.
I've seen these words used interchangably many times and it annoys me, because two of them can have a positive effect, used carefully.
Let's go back in time. I grew up in a very judgmental culture. I've never quite figured out what made it that way, but for some reason the time/place/social group I found myself in was very keen on summing people up quickly, criticizing them, and seeing nothing wrong with it.
I was fortunate to have a mother who was less judgmental in many ways, but she was not innocent. In some ways she was a snob. Not that she'd ever have caused anyone any harm, in word or deed, she kept her thoughts mostly to herself. But every so often she'd share them with me, so on the one hand she taught me to be respectful and tolerant, but now and again, I'd see her own limits. It was awfully confusing, as a matter of fact.
When I became a mother myself I tried to copy her good points and avoid her bad ones. I think a lot of us do that as parents. I tried hard to be non-judgmental at least within earshot of my children, to give everyone a chance, as it were, and I tried not to confuse them on the matter. I kept it simple - be kind to everyone, but don't be a doormat.
I don't like everyone, of course I don't. I don't approve of everyone's lifestyle. But I work hard on minding my own business. It seems to have worked. My kids, on the whole, are pretty broad-minded people.
But it was a process. I would say that as a teenager I was quite judgmental. I had good influences, and bad. I consider myself very lucky that I had loyal, brave friends who called me out on it when I uttered opinions that were not well-considered. I was also lucky enough to have been given the germ of an idea, at home, that one should be ashamed of any hint of bigotry. And probably being "bright" helped, too.
If I could change anything in my life, I wish I had been taught far more just how important tolerance was, and at a young age. All my regrets are on unkindnesses I have done others, maybe not to their faces, but in my harsh opinions from lack of empathy.
Perhaps it takes maturity to learn empathy, but it just seemed to take me longer than it has taken my own children. Well, at least I achieved that.
I don't think it works very well to "preach" tolerance. I think this is where a lot of churches get it wrong, but we won't go there right now. I think it has to be taught gently, continuously, and as far as possible by example. I don't believe that "don't do as I do, do as I tell you" works at all well.
I think it also has to be understood that there are limits.
So, those words again.
Bigotry has no excuses at all. It is illogical, cruel, and dangerous.
Chauvinism isn't far behind it, no matter how noble its basis.
Antipathy may be visceral, based on bad experiences, or teachings, but an intelligent person should be able to get past it.
Prejudice is just stupid. We are all guilty of it, and the sooner we accept that the better, it takes effort to avoid. But it has to go.
Discrimination is simply selection, and it can be a good thing. It only becomes a problem when connected to those words above. Discrimation based on bigotry is probably the darkest aspect of human history and society.
Judgment is useful, and can save your life. It's not necessarily a bad thing at all, until it becomes self-righteous, and therefore self-serving. It's a matter of using it well.
So, when we share our opinions, whatever they are, what is the purpose?
If there is no useful, constructive purpose, it's better not to share them, and quietly work on them alone.
But this post is all my opinion, why am I sharing it? Am I trying to convince you that I'm right? Many of you will agree with me, at least in the broadest way, so you'll just nod and move on. But maybe, just maybe, somebody reading this will say to themselves "Yes, she has a point. I need to work on that." and this is a good thing.
Because I'm glad it was pointed out to me, before it was too late. Before I became bitter and critical.