Books and covers: Being judgemental

Judgemental. It’s a word I’ve heard thrown around a lot among friends and acquaintances. But what does it mean? I once told a friend that everyone judges other people. That it’s a natural thing that we do automatically all the time. She laughed at me. I’m the worst when it comes to expressing my thoughts as speech, so it certainly didn’t come across right. But I think lost in there was a good point. Here’s a hopefully more coherent explanation of what I meant to say then.
We’re always told not to judge a book by it’s cover. Yet everyone does it. I mean, what else are we supposed to go by? There are so many books out there for us to choose from. The only way to really know what a book is like is to read it. But we can’t possibly read each one. We have to narrow the field first. So we choose books that look like they fit our interests. But can we really call that judging?
It’s similar with people. When we see people for the first time, we automatically form an opinion. Yes, this opinion is based on surface characteristics, like a book cover. The cover may not necessarily reflect what is inside the book, but unfortunately in life, we can’t read every book in depth. So we pick and choose the people we want to get to know. I don’t think this is a problem. I don’t think it’s wrong to look at someone and think ‘he looks tired’ or even ‘I don’t like her haircut’. We’re entitled to our own opinions. The problem is when we start to make assumptions about the plot just from the picture on the front of the novel. It’s not okay to say ‘he’s probably tired because he partied all night. He’s going nowhere in life’ or ‘that’s a haircut only a lesbian would wear’. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that you never know what someone is dealing with. I’ve had a few people confide in me the struggles that they have experienced and continue to experience everyday. These experiences shape their life decisions. I’ve heard people say this about a guy who doesn’t drink. They say he’s a party pooper, that he is ‘judgemental’ (there’s that word again)towards those who do drink, even though he’s never said a bad word about them. I found out after years of knowing him that he chooses not to drink because both of his parents are recovering alcoholics. His decision to not drink is an amazing act of courage. But people who haven’t read the whole book are writing bad reviews based on the cover. That, I believe, is being judgemental.
And it goes both ways. I’ve heard people being called judgemental because they’re goody two shoes or because they’re rule breakers. I’m not saying I’m innocent. I know that far too often, I’ve made assumptions and formed opinions based on false assumptions. But to be an expert, you have to read the whole book. It’s not always easy. People will hand you copies of their story with entire chapters. So don’t speak badly until you’ve got the full story. And never judge a book by it’s cover.


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