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Judge Individuals, Not Groups

My younger sister is famous for telling me in a half-menacing, half-joking tone: "Ben, don't judge me!"

And I'm just as famous for responding with "Sarah, aren't you judging me right now in thinking and saying that I'm judging you?

My sister thinks that it's wrong to judge others. I think that we judge each other all the time, and that this is a good thing, as we need to judge others to make good decisions on how to use our time and other resources.

I know that this running joke between my sister and me is more about semantics than anything else. I'm sure that she agrees with me about the necessity of evaluating other people's values. And I definitely agree with her feeling that we shouldn't be critical with a mean or petty spirit.

One phrase that I heard long ago and feel a strong connection to is this:

"Judge individuals, not groups."

When we judge groups rather than individuals, I think we hurt our chances of having meaningful experiences that can enhance our health and overall quality of life.

There was a time when some bad personal and professional experiences with conventional medical practitioners left me wary of the entire profession; I found it difficult to meet new medical doctors and trust that they would try to address the root causes of their patients' health challenges, and teach their patients how to experience optimal health.

Today, I continue to believe that conventional health care systems don't emphasize prevention of illness and injury. But I try not to adopt general beliefs or make blanket statements that paint all conventional doctors in a specific color.

While I believe that many conventional doctors don't focus on disease prevention and supporting the body's self healing mechanisms, many of these doctors can provide measurable help for specific health challenges - help that many alternative health care providers cannot provide as effectively.

For example, a short while ago, a long-time patient came to me after injuring her shoulder. After discussing her medical history and doing an evaluation, I felt that she was suffering with acute subacromial bursitis, a rare and extremely painful condition that can occur in people with a history of chronic shoulder tendonitis.

Since her pain was too great for me to provide any treatment other than some acupressure, my advice to her was to completely rest her shoulder until the inflammation subsided enough for me to provide some palliative treatments and light stretching sessions.

Unfortunately, her bursitis was so severe that the swelling and muscle guarding made it impossible for her to carry out the most basic activities of daily living.

I ended up accompanying her to the emergency room of our local hospital late one night to see about getting her help that I couldn't provide. The ER physician who examined her was very good about working with me to make the best diagnostic and treatment decisions for this poor woman. I greatly appreciated his recognition of my concern and thoughts on her situation; by gathering information from me on her situation and working together, he was able to address her situation more effectively and efficiently than he could have if she had gone alone. Within about 30 minutes from the time we entered the ER, she received an injection of a corticosteroid that, within 24 hours, changed the momentum of her condition for the better.

I have met enough physicians like the one I met recently to feel that it's inaccurate and unfair for me to believe or state that all conventional doctors are uncaring. Adopting the belief that all medical doctors are uncaring and incompetent would hurt my chances of having beneficial experiences like the one that I just had.

If I make a blanket statement like "doctors are morons," I feel that I only hurt my own credibility. I may be right in observing that many doctors don't do a good job of helping people experience optimal health, but to make a broad, sweeping judgment of an entire group of people signals immaturity. Disdain is disdain. Hate is hate. Intolerance is intolerance. No matter how justified disdain, hate, and intolerance may be, they don't help anyone, particularly the person who is being disdainful, hateful, or intolerant.

If we find one specific doctor to be uncaring, incompetent, or greedy, then it is to our benefit to judge that doctor as being unworthy of his position, and to make appropriate decisions going forward. It is not to our benefit to judge all doctors as being similar to that one doctor.

There are good doctors, and there are bad doctors. Period.

And we can substitute "doctors" in the above line with any other group of people, like lawyers, politicians, teachers, contractors, clergy people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Asians, Africans, Caucasians, Latinos, heterosexuals, homosexuals, etc.

Within every group of people, there are good people, and there are bad people. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that within every group of people, there is good behavior, and there is bad behavior.

When we consistently judge individuals rather than groups, we open ourselves up to special experiences and connections that we likely wouldn't have by holding onto prejudices.

If you have any thoughts on this topic, please consider sharing them in the comments section below. Thank you.


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Dear Dr Ben Kim,
I agree completely with your views on judgment of other people/groups. I wholeheartedly believe there are good/bad individuals in all countries and all races and indeed I personally (my 3 daughters too) have many friends of all different and nationalities and beliefs. We find the difference extremely enlightening for us all.
Thank you so much for such wonderful and interesting newsletters (I wish I had known about them long ago ;-) ) I have just been diagnosed with high cholesterol and possibly high blood sugar too although I'm not 100% certain yet.
Kind regards and keep up the good work.
Jean B.

Your comments are timely and beautifully expressed. I plan to share this with my Advanced ESL students.

I agree that it is great to assess the qualities of groups as well as individuals, whether it be good or bad, so that you can know what sits right or wrong within your own life. I agree with your sister though on not judging. I would rather look at it this way; I focus on what it is that I want to experience. As I do this, if I happen to come upon a person or situation that creates negative feelings within me I stop and shift my focus to that which I do like and want as a part of my experience. I guess what I'm saying is you can't control the way someone else wants to behave, believe, or live his or her life, but you can control what you want to believe and create in your life and how you want to behave. Therefore, rather than focusing on the judgement of others, which takes a lot of your own energy and perpetuates your experience of those people and situations, take notice to all the different ways of being and believing out there and determine your preferences from that. This way your focus will be on creating your own joyful experience and not on judging what other people are doing, thinking and being that does not coincide with your own way of being. You'll have a much happier life experience.

I have to reiterate that I just absolutely love this website. It is so organized and thorough with information. I'm a massage therapist in the area where you went to Chiropractic School in Lombard. What a small world.

Kimberly Stillwell

To have the ability to judge keeps us from falling off of the cliff edge or running into the car in front of us, so it can be a good thing to make judgments. To look at the heart of another allows us to cut through the exterior yuk that most of us find it hard to get past and to see with purer eyes.

What a great practice it would be to look through to the heart and find the essence of the person we find ourselves with. That could include ourselves as well.

I think the verb "to judge" is often misunderstood. It is bad to judge carelessly, but it is important to judge responsibly. We have to make judgments in our lives to decide what is best for us. I try to look for the value in things and people, but stay on guard to what might hurt me.

As for the world of health, I lean toward the preventative, less medical approach. But I like to look at things holistically...and I believe there is certainly a place for medical doctors! So many people would die without them. Even though many medical doctors may seem thoughtless when they don't dig deep to find the root cause of a problem, I don't believe it means they don't care. They just aren't trained that way. I feel they do care, in their own way.

I think people would do well to take a holistic approach for life...find the good in different groups and take from them what will help you in your life.