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Who does the judging?

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The knapsack turned out to be a bomb and when it exploded it killed one person and injured over a hundred. But the number of those killed and injured would surely have been much higher had not Jewell moved people to a safer location.

Immediately after the bombing the media played up Jewell as a hero, interviewing him and raining accolades on him. However, after a few days, law enforcement and the media turned on Jewell as a possible suspect, and the rush to judgment started.

Ultimately, another person admitted planting the bomb, and Jewell was exonerated. The media tried to restore him to "hero status." But he'd been judged guilty in the public mind, and it was that impression that stayed with many people right to his death. It was wrong and unfair - but it stuck nevertheless!

Reading about Jewell's death I thought of the way we tend to judge people, doing so in many cases after just meeting them briefly or listening to them for no more that a minute or two. We look at their skin color, listen to them talk, hear their accent or tone of voice, see the way they dress, and we make judgments. At that point we may know very little about them - yet we like them or don't like them, think less or more of them, but we have our opinion and that's that!

Worse, we sometimes let others form our judgment of people before we've even met them. "You are not going to like him because he's ..." and then they list the reasons we won't like the person we're about to meet. It's probably my contrary nature, but invariably when someone says that to me, I end up liking that other person and find he or she has some great qualities.

Psychologists can give a lot of reasons for our need to make quick judgments of people. I think that the challenge is to teach ourselves to go slowly in forming our opinions of others and, more importantly, to look for their good qualities.

I had an uncle who was a man of very few words, most of them said in a monotone with little warmth and mostly devoid of humor. We kids thought his only redeeming quality was that he was married to our aunt, who could light up a room with her smile, and made the greatest chocolate chip cookies besides.

Shortly before my uncle died I visited him in a nursing home and we talked about another family member who was having problems, mostly of his own making. When I asked my uncle what he thought about this person he said, "It's not my role to judge him, that's God's work. My role is to see his good points, love him and pray for him!"

In his typically few words, he taught me one of life's great lessons. God does the judging, not me. My task is to find the goodness in others. - - -

Dennis Heaney is president of The Christophers.

- - -

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, "Positive Attitudes, Positive Choices," write: The Christophers, 12 East 48th St., New York, N.Y. , 10017; or e-mail:


The Christophers ,
Dennis Heaney - ,



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