Cast the First Stone: Why Are We So Judgmental?

by Britni Danielle

We are all individuals. Each one of us is prone to experience love, desire, hate, jealously, immense joy, and soul-crushing pain—all of which makes us inescapably human. We’ve all heard it before, but no one is perfect. There is not one person who has lived who has not made a mistake. Whether your misstep has been as small as failing a test, cursing someone out, or flipping the bird, or as big as sleeping with the wrong person, getting arrested, or cheating on your mate—we’ve all fucked up one time or another.

Given our humanness and the high probability we’ll have to utter the words, “my bad,” it’s amazing just how judgmental some of us can be.

The examples are infinite. One look at any popular website’s comment section and you’ll quickly find people not only sharing their opinion about the topic, but also making very broad judgments about either the article or (and this is most often the case) other readers on the site.

A few weeks ago, our sister site Coco + Crème published an article discussing Black women and plastic surgery. Although women of all nationalities have gone under the knife, when Black women undergo cosmetic procedures, we (black folks) seem to have the most to say about it.

The article aimed to illicit our views on cosmetic surgery, and from the looks of the comments, we have a lot to say. Some commenters called women who have cosmetic surgery lazy and questioned their self-esteem, while other readers didn’t see a problem with a little enhancement. Instead of just agreeing to disagree, many comments turned into personal attacks and eventually, the Coco + Crème team closed the comments and issued a statement reminding readers to be respectful.

As a writer, I have (almost) gotten used to people taking personal shots at me simply for the things I write. But it hasn’t been easy. Recently, when I wrote an article asking if we’re over the Chris Brown incident, one reader took particular offence and called me everything from “pathetic” to a “bitch” and said I needed prayer simply because I mentioned being suspicious of the sincerity of Brown’s apologies. For some reason, this reader had a difficult time separating the article from the person who wrote it, and decided to make judgments about my character simply because we had different opinions.

Don’t get me wrong, I love opinions. Prompting a sincere discussion about a topic is one of the reasons I love to write. There is nothing more fulfilling than learning something new from a reader (or anyone) who took the time to share their point of view. So opinions are not the enemy, we are all entitled to our own. But when expressing our opinions on a particular subject devolves into name-calling and irrational curse-outs, there’s something definitely wrong.

Every time I see someone defending a celebrity or their own decisions by asserting, “Only God can judge,” then proceeding to call someone who disagrees with them an idiot or delusional, or question their intelligence, I wonder why some of us feel so comfortable dishing out judgments as if we are the Divine.

Last summer I began seeing a therapist. I stepped out on faith (and even went against the beliefs of some of my family and friends) because I no longer wanted to walk around pretending to be superwoman. When I began my sessions one of my goals was to shake my need to be so guarded. I’m a fairly private person and some things (i.e. the complicated nature of my relationship, or how much I wanted to pursue a different career) I tend to keep to myself. The downside of such privacy, however, is that I felt I was always holding something back from my crew and that few people actually knew me. Even though my friends and family have my back, in the corner of my mind I still kept things to myself because I didn’t want them to judge me. I didn’t want them to see me differently just because I wasn’t as strong, or as unflinching, or as together as I seemed to be.

As I worked through my fear of being vulnerable with the ones I love, my therapist reminded me that people tend to judge others because it’s easier to recognize a fault in someone else than deal with it in their own life.

For instance, it’s easy for us to tell our girl to leave that no good, trifling man alone even though we have our own questionable partner at home. While we can rattle off 99 reasons why we stay with someone others may hate (I love him, we’ve been through a lot, he was there for me when…), we can’t seem to understand why another woman would subject herself to a dysfunctional relationship and are quick to label her as “weak” or perhaps even “stupid” for not leaving.

The more vulnerable I have become—both publically through my work and privately with my fam—the more I have learned that no matter what you do, people will judge you. And instead of getting bent out of shape about other people’s misinformed views of you, it’s best to just leave it be. Yes, your first inclination may be to clap back and prove that you are not what they think you are, but really…who cares? As long as you are confident in yourself and your decisions, nothing else really matters.

  • lanna

    Kudos, this was an awesome read.

  • Briana

    Beautiful!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    honestly i didnt see the reason why the comments were closed on that article. i’ve seen worse attacks and name calling on other clutch posts and i didnt see those closed women can get very vicious on here and then use “big words” so that they sound more “concious” and intellectual.

    come on now! you can to go to the gym and work out after giving birth (many many women have done it) so yes it is laziness and if you feel that you need to get liposuctions and tummy tucks. and yes if you “need” surgery just be happy then yes it is from low self esteem thats obvious.theres no other way to sugarcoat it. just look at heidi montag. that chick got 10 surgeries in one day and shes STILL not happy with herself.

    now on topic… its simple EVERYBODY judges. so while people would be arguing in forum saying ” get off your high horse and stop judging other people” then they themselves are on a high horse thinking that they’re above human nature.they are also judging someone by accusing them of judging when they give their opinion on something ( i see that a lot on clutch too). everybody judges so why call someone out on it when you do it too?

    if someone points a gun at you and you run away then you just judged that person thinking they were going to shoot you. if you see someone sleeping in a box under a freeway in dirty clothes then you’re judging that person by calling them homeless. judging is HUMAN! its normal to judge people and form an opinion of them. if you get to know someone then your opinion usually changes. but t first glance you’re dead set on your first impression of them.

    correct me if i’m wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    also about that article i think its messed up that because somebody doesnt have the same opinion as someone else then they’re being “disrespectful” and a “troll”. let’s please grow up clutchettes. i’ve seen it so much on here,people on this site throw personal attacks ALL THE TIME ( and in the middle of their insults bring up that they have degrees and phds lol) .its so immature to call people names and insult their intelligence just because they dont have the same views as you. its ridiculous how its elementary school type arguments going on in these forums SMH

  • Monique

    I read this magazine everyday, picking and choosing which headlines grab my attention. Typically, they are happy subjects or inspirational stories. Every so often, I’ll read one that I know is controversial and will garner many comments, even though I am not interested in the topic. I started doing this when I read somewhere (I think it was on the Verysmartbrothas site) that the comments coming from this site have become so vile and negative; I wanted to see if I agreed with him. And I do. I saw the comments section of both the articles you mention and my jaw dropped, especially the one from the Chris Brown article. I saw that one of her comments was deleted by Clutch; I can only imagine what she said because the one that didn’t get deleted was extremely foul. The first thing that goes through my mind is how hurtful that is and what the attacked person must be feeling.

    The internet is an awesome place to exchange ideas, get the latest news, heck, even keep your bank account in order – I couldn’t efficiently manage my life without it. But, it would be so nice if we could inject some maturity into cyberspace, where foolish comments and mean words automatically get thrown into a bit bucket.

    I am going back to doing what I was doing before with Clutch – read the positive articles only (and there are plenty of them). My eyes can’t take much more of some these readers’ nasty words.

    Once again, you have written an article that is so on point, Britni! I’m still a fan of your writing.

  • Therelucantsocialite

    “I’m a fairly private person and some things (i.e. the complicated nature of my relationship, or how much I wanted to pursue a different career) I tend to keep to myself. The downside of such privacy, however, is that I felt I was always holding something back from my crew and that few people actually knew me. Even though my friends and family have my back, in the corner of my mind I still kept things to myself because I didn’t want them to judge me. I didn’t want them to see me differently just because I wasn’t as strong, or as unflinching, or as together as I seemed to be.”

    I can soooooo relate to this. This is something that I need to work on as well…

    As to the article… yes, you are right. Having an opinion and knowing how to respectfully disagree with someone is something completely different from being judgemental and hateful. Sometimes, people really lose sight of that. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean that they’re wrong… it just means that they have different beliefs, standards, values…etc.

    You can disagree without being disrespectful…and you can state your opposition to something without calling names and being hurtful.

  • Dee Dee

    Congratulations on your courage and progress………

  • Shannon

    Great article. Esp the part on judging others’ relationships. Practicing what you preach is one of the hardest things to do! Preciate this read.

  • minna k.

    I was just thinking about this on the way home. in an earlier part of my life life I’d set all kinds of goals and standards and have had all kinds of ideas about who I thought I was. “I will NEVER do AB & C”, i would boast. “People that do AB&C are not good people. I would never find myself in XYZ situation. People that find themselves in XYZ situations OBVIOUSLY don’t use their brains”, went my verdict.

    Years later someone finds herself doing AB&C with an XY&Z kind of person. Guess who is no longer “using her brain”? :P

  • ceecee

    I think sometimes we tend to get carried away when stating our opinions, with respect to attacking/rude comments I always maintain the philosophy of: “consider the source”
    It’s pointless to get bent out of shape over the opinion of someone you may never meet or who doesn’t matter to your life in the grand scheme of things.
    I concur with Thereluctant Socialite, Clutch has a lot of positive articles/comments and that’s what I choose to read.

  • BoomShots

    I am never inclined to judge someone by what they but it may cause me to question their judgment. But i feel at ease judging people’s actions. In my book our actions are very determinant of who we are as people. It is very difficult in my view to divorce the person from the act.

    Pre-judging before you know the facts is often what I find most objectionable. As for people who attack others’ character base on a comment. I can only SMH.

  • Guest

    While our actions might be determinant of who we are as people, we as people are continuously growing and learning. We are all human at the end of the day which means our past actions don’t have to be the end all be all of who we are…..we can always choose to learn and grow from our actions.

  • steph302

    I’ve lost some of my judgemental nature with age (I hope). I think the “I’m right, you’re wrong!” attitude is a result of a lack of life experience. In youth, we want to keep everyone in a little box just like the one we’ve been forced into. In my 30′s I just want to do me, and I want other women to have the opportunity to do the same.

  • http://designsdellight.com garden design

    I laughed when you suddenly sais you saw a therapist, I do not know I might becoming judgemental.

    On a point though you sure that your therapist is kosher, most of those guy just listen and never give an opinion.

    We can all do better, you are right we should refrain from judging others harshly.

    As for comments on blogs, well black people need to take it easy, it is like we have not had a place where are voices could be heard before, we are over dosing on opinion giving.

    Am I being judgemental?

  • Jane

    Ashley, judging is an opinion. It is not an opinion to run from a gun in your face or observing someone is homeless because they are sleeping under a bridge. An observation and an opinion are very different.

  • http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/el-lay/id406333477 Kia Muze

    Yes that last paragraph is on POINT!!!!

  • http://www.tifivil.tumblr.com Urbanchica

    HERE HERE!! Great article!!

  • Bendita_Nina

    I absolutely LOVE this article! I very much mirror the personality traits listed by the author and fully understand how difficult is to let down your guard, allowing people into your world without the fear of receiving constant negative feed back or brash judgment from your so called “loved ones.” Still being an awesome article, I wish the author had put some focus on encouraging our “love ones” to move past our mistake and try to help find a different approach with our relationships, careers, etc. opposed to quickly forming judgment. However, the statement that her therapist said was dead on, “…people tend to judge others because it’s easier to recognize a fault in someone else than deal with it in their own life.” I find it said that judging other and putting them down is the road that some folks have to take to receive self gratification.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    @jane honestly i think they’re one in the same.

    sure my example was extreme( lol) but still giving an observation is still judging. you’re making ideas about something just by looking at it. if you look at a person sleeping in a city park why would that automatically make them homeless? maybe they just like sleeping in the park.

    when you observe something you’re simply looking, and looks can be deceiving. you never know the full story.

    like i said everybody judges so people should quit sitting around lying to themselves and acting like they dont cause its human nature. just like passing gas yet some women act like they never pass gas *rolls eyes* same deal!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    i have a question…how is having a personal opinion about something preventing anybody from ” doing them”??

    this has always amazed me when you say something like ” omg stephanie is stripper now! how disappointing” and the other person would reply ” well let her be stripper”. that doesnt even make any sense. it urks me so much when people make those replies

    its so irritating how people act like you just commited murder just cause you gave your personal opinion on something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    lol isnt an opinion what the comment boxes are for though?

  • Kamika

    We irrationally judge because we are unforgiving, resistant to change, and fearful. But all judgements are not bad nor ill-informed.

    Regarding separating the views in an article from the author, well if it’s an op-Ed piece why would I? It’s your opinion which you’ve opened up for criticism (albeit constructive). If you are just relaying the facts or posing and open ended question then that’s a different story.

  • nit

    Nice read! I wish people would voice their opinions more tastefully. (not pertaining to the comments above) but in general.

  • ceecee

    Ashley,
    Per your stripper scenario. The person who says “well let them be a stripper” probably realizes that things in life are not black and white & people are free to make their own decisions. You being disappointed that the person is a stripper is not going to change the fact, so why give oneself heart burn over how someone else chooses to live their life.

  • TAB

    Love this! I especially agree with this part:

    no matter what you do, people will judge you. And instead of getting bent out of shape about other people’s misinformed views of you, it’s best to just leave it be. Yes, your first inclination may be to clap back and prove that you are not what they think you are, but really…who cares? As long as you are confident in yourself and your decisions, nothing else really matters.

    “Life is reciprocal: The energy you expend always comes back.”
    — Oprah

  • ALIG83

    I don’t know why WE are so judgmental. I think a lot of people get great joy out criticizing others. It amazes me how people will e-fight on celebrity entertainment blogs, calling others ‘haters’ for not thinking a celebrity is ‘God’. These people will then begin to judge what the others life may be like by throwing around terms like “Basic Bitch’.

  • guest

    @Ashleysykes

    this is my opinion or me judging you (whatever your personal opinion is) but
    you obviously have alot more growth/experiences to go through in life….you sound very subjective and determined to prove that the way YOU perceive things is the end all be all….in reality the world is HUGE and not everyone is going to see things the same way so if it bothers you oh well….just try not to sound so negative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    i never said anyone was going to see things the way i do. i know that. thats obvious. where did you get that from?

    and yes, you are judging me : )

    see? thats all i was saying. everybody judges.lol thats all

    i’m so sorry if saying something simple and basically true makes me seem like i need to “grow up” and that i’m hell bent on people agreeing with me or else i’ll have some sort of heartattack or something.aha

    how am i being negatives?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    you dont need to realize anything because its a given. its obvious. when people state the obvious like ” everybody makes their own decisions”or “well thats her life not yours” in an attempt to answer a question or reply to a situation is redundant. it also doesnt make the person sound smart or witty by stating the obvious thats why i just laugh at them. what was the point of them saying that?

    what i was saying about the stripper example was not someone having a heartattack over how someone lives their life. its just expressing an opinion. if said girl was in law school or her last year of medical school and then just gives up to become a stripper out of nowhere is undeniably very odd and perhaps a bit disappointing to say a family member or close friend of the girl.

    maybe there is something wrong with me but i just think it sounds stupid to reply to “let her be a stripper” when you dont have control over anyone’s actions anyways.like if you tell someone ” omg shes pregnant and shes only 13! how crazy” and the person replies ” well you know what? let her be pregnant. thats her decision not yours” which if you’re telling me that its HER decision then why are you asking me to give her permission to be pregnant? to “let someone” do something is to give them permission so that statement makes no sense. i guess looking in to the definition of english words could confuse a person.

    idk whatever maybe i’m a nutjob

  • http://motionandrest.wordpress.com steph302

    The observation and the value judgement aren’t the same thing. With respect to your “13 and pregnant” scenario, let me say this… I used to work in a pharmacy, and I was dispensing an oral contraceptive to a teen. I explained that the effectiveness of the bc could be lessened by the antibiotic she was taking for acne. The girl said “Oh I’m not taking these for birth control, just to regulate my period. I’m not one of those dummies who gets pregnant in high school!” Value judgement. Women have been having children in their teens since women have been having children. Are they ALL stupid? Or was she buying in to what someone else told her is appropriate action for her in her situation? Was she qualified to speak on behalf of all teens throughout history?

    So I let her know that of the women who were working in the pharmacy that day, the two who had the most education and made the most money were the two PharmD’s who had babies in high school. Meanwhile, I in my thirties still didn’t have kids or a college degree. Which one of us was a dummy? Life is complicated.

  • N. Rochelle

    I am a fan of clutch and I read every article that I find interesting. I do look through the comments section to see what others’ opinions are of the given topic. I must say that I have never commented before, until now, but I was going to write into the “powers to be” and suggest that they filter some of the comments more often. After reading some of the comments posted on this site in particular, I wonder why black people hate other black people so much. Some of the comments are so heartbreaking! We judge each other so harshly. It’s one thing to express your opinion about a topic but to just attack peoples’ character, lifestyle choices and circumstances the way that some do on this site is almost a hate crime. It’s just sad and deplorable at the same time. So this article really hit home for me. Now I know that it’s not just me, and to have someone put out there the exact things I was thinking let me know there really is a serious problem. So again, why do some of you hate other black people so much? You talk about and to each other like dogs sometimes. Please don’t attack me now for writing this.

  • African Mami

    It’s a human trait with differing degrees. Great article Brit!

  • Lauren

    Oh please does the writer of this piece not know she is on a PUBLIC forum which encourages viewpoints from readers?! Hey Brittni if you can’t take the heat step out the damn kitchen and this has nothing to do with thinking celebrities are ‘god’ it has to do with YOU yourself tearing ohters down while bemoaning those who dare call you on it. If you don;’t want to get criticized for being arrogant and holier than maybe you should strive to not be so ‘judgemental’ your dang self.

  • http://www.rhapso-DY.com Rhapso_DY

    This was a really great piece. I relate in so many ways. I’ve always tried my best not to be judgmental, but it’s just second nature. It’s hard when you have to be vulnerable. I completely get that. I’m too much of a control freak to let that go lol. I’m working on it. We all put ourselves on a pedestal and find it hard to judge ourselves the way we should. Now there needs to be an extension of this piece–black folks and therapy. lol :-)

  • missyjustice

    I agree. I’ll admit I’ve been one to get heated up over issues in my attempt to change someone’s mind about an issue that’s of great importance to me but I’ve grown from that and now realize that getting angry really isn’t the way to go about it… at least not on an online forum. Sure it might feel good in the moment but it’s not going to help you get a point across and will surely discredit whatever you have to say in the eyes/mind of the person you are attacking.

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