Every day of our lives, we make many judgmental calls. Consciously or unconsciously, our minds make the inherent connection between the significance of our lives and the formidability of obstacles in our ways.

All too often, we blame not the circumstances but the people behind them. We will observe someone crossing our paths and swiftly proceed to think what must be wrong with the person. The way they are dressed, the way they walk, the way they look — every characteristic and feature of this poor soul becomes just another arsenal in the mental arena of our judgment. We reign supreme in the throne of our thoughts and we feel justified to think unjust thoughts just because we can.

Thoughts are not harming others, we think. So why bother correcting our perceptions? Why utilize the necessity of empathy when the escape hatch of idle thinking is ever present? Why bother correcting ourselves when we feel others need to be corrected more than us?

Recently, I found myself falling in these traps. I was sitting in Annabel Lee Tavern enjoying dinner with a friend when I began jesting about how two people sitting outside the window seemed to be in love. I did not know if the duo was a couple or siblings or best friends so I made a few judgment calls. Looking out the windows of the Poe-themed haunt, I thought it was funny that the girl was seated in a particular way and that the boy appeared to be shy. I also thought it was romantic. I wondered if their parents knew that they were drinking and if they were somehow underage. I wondered if they were lazy students who perhaps felt the need to hang out instead of studying.

Until my own companion told me to return back to the world, I realized what I had done wrong.

I had failed to be introspective while eagerly seeing the haunted beauty of the world outside. It may have been an innocuous mistake. I did not harbor any resentments towards the duo; it’s just that I felt obliged to say something about the way someone was seated and the way someone was acting. I thought my friend would find it funny as well.

But my friend had a serious look on their face. They say the measure of a true friendship is in the corrective actions of our friends. I was lucky to have a friend who perhaps had made the journey I had yet to make. I tend to think of myself as relatively more understanding than others, but I do have my faults and sometimes I become oblivious to them. Until they are pointed out. 

At the Catonsville campus, I sometimes observe my favorite saying featured on the Student Life signpost by the barn. That we should “Be Kind. For everyone is fighting a hard battle.”

Maybe the duo I saw needed this happy hour of the night to confess to each other, to confide in the other, to trust in one another, and to believe in themselves. Maybe they felt that they could understand themselves better by talking in the darkness of the night than in the brightness of the morning.

I am so proud of the fact that my friend gave me that necessary jolt that I did not realize I needed. It helped me understand myself and amend my thinking pattern. We have much more in common with those around us than we care to admit. The next time you see someone on the streets or in school, maybe you will see a part of yourself in them. That will only happen if you understand yourself (or try to at least) responsibly.

Listening to understand rather than listening to reply is much more difficult. But it takes practice and it can be done.

I actively try to make an effort to understand other people and try to be more empathetic. But this time I think I slightly went off-course. In expressing my surprise at something strange, I took the negative connotations more strongly than the positive vibes of two lives.I often search to be understood just as hard as I try to understand my loved ones. It takes energy, effort, and a certain level of courage to do this. Maybe the next time when I am prone to making rash decisions and bold statements and uncalled-for jokes, I need to give myself a much-needed pause. This time, my beloved friend saved me from the baser of my instincts. The next time, I will aim to be the judge of my controlled thoughts.

In the comments section below, tell me about the time you made a judgment call! It could be any observation, stereotype, or remark you made to yourself or others. What did you learn from it?