And the Impact of Our Judgmentalism
The first few years of my life, because my parents worked full-time, I was cared for during the day by my Grandmother Floyce. Over the years, every time I made a judgemental statement about another person, she’d say, “Now Janice, “judge not lest ye be judged” or I’d just get a simple warning “…judge not…”.
While in high school, I got to know some of the kids labeled “losers”, “dropouts”, “stoners”, “wastoids”, “slackers”, etc. I quickly realized the vast majority of them were incredibly smart. And very bored. And often very hurt. I could tell there was a lot of emotional pain in them. But no adult seemed to be aware of it and only judged them based on what everyone else saw. Or if they were aware of these teens’ brilliance and hurt, they did nothing about it.
But this man does. He does not take the easy path of the zero tolerance policy.
He does what my grandmother admonished me to do: “judge not”. He demonstrates what my Grandmother taught us in every action she performed: “care”. If you’ve read the article about Jim Sporleder, principal at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington, that is the man I’m referring to. If you haven’t seen this article before, take a look and if you think it’s a bull-hockey approach, hit the Back button and come on back here.
If you think this guy is awesome and you applaud this man and say what an great job he’s done and ask “why isn’t everyone else doing this?” remember: you are part of “everyone”. Are you doing this? And before you answer that “of course!” then keep reading. I’m not done with you yet either. I’m going to appear to go off on a tangent here for a minute. Bear with me.
Jim Sporleder has struck crime at its core: by reaching out to kids who are hurting and rather than punishing them, he listens. He cares. He doesn’t let his preconceived notions of who and what those kids are, and what our society says they are, get in the way of his actions. He does not judge them the way most of us would.
Our prisons are full of first-time offenders, being punished, being “rehabilitated”, and understanding what they did wrong but never knowing WHY they did wrong. They have not been treated from a counseling and therapeutic standpoint, so they cannot understand their own motives or achieve any form of self-awareness. Never truly learning how to fix their behavior, and thus never truly rehabilitated, they are released to commit a more horrific crime next time.
Because no one cares.
Caring is hard. Caring is, at first, expensive. Caring means taking time out of our own exhausting and overwhelming lives, and struggling to have a moment of empathy for others.
There are those that think that caring for others is just some bleeding heart, liberal politically correct crap. I say: in a fiscally conservative world, leaders look for long-term budgetary savings. So if you don’t care, or you think this is a bunch of fluffy and impractical crap, let me put this in terms you will care about.
The short term, non-fiscally conservative solution to crime involves throwing offenders into prisons that politicians and businesspeople gain from both politically and financially. It involves massive paper trails, convoluted laws, systems that don’t fix people but further break them down and then release them into our society. Then, we spend massive amounts of money on police, fire, EMS, hospitals, insurance, and all the things that money must go into to protect us from crime and to help people who are the victims of crimes.
Often, this involves sending people to privatized prisons.
Do you know what a privatized prison is? It is a business. Its goal is to make money.
This means keeping costs low by cutting rehab programs to prisoners, using cheap, emotionally and morally broken employees, putting people in the smallest cells possible, using poor health care, and other “cost cutting” measures, and making sure that those prisons stay full so enough profit is generated in order for prison owners to make more prisons.
It means making one-strike laws and arresting people for “victimless” crimes. It means sheriffs, judges, laws, politicians, and voters are primed to give the most benefit to those prisons so the politicians and their friends that own the prisons can make the most profit. It means manipulating you and making you care less about others, about reducing all crime and most political issues to “us” and “them”. All so your vote lines a business person’s pockets, so they can line a politician’s pockets.
The long-term, fiscally conservative solution to crime involves fixing INDIVIDUALS as children, and for those we miss, fixing them as first-time offenders when adults. In the business world, this is called risk management: we identify potential problems and fix them so they don’t become real, and very expensive, problems.
Amazingly, my home state of Texas is leading the way on this type of risk management approach. Not stopping crime as far ahead of the curve as I’m talking about, but still making great strides in preventing repeat offenses and demonstrating the fiscal savings. Texas is leading the way in prisoner reform, building fewer prisons, and actually closing them now.
Texas “…enacted an overhaul package that invested $241 million in treatment programs and diversion options. Gov. Rick Perry, who in the previous session had vetoed a package crafted by the same two legislators, signed it into law.
The result: Texas saved money, the incarceration rate is down, probation and parole revocations are down, the prison population has remained stable, recidivism has been declining, the crime rate continues to tumble to historic lows, and instead of building new prisons at more than $300 million a pop, they were able to shutter the century-old Sugar Land Central Unit.”
Now imagine the financial and social saving when behaviors that can lead to a life of crime are stopped in youth. Imagine a safety net and catching at-risk children before they become criminals.
Some politicians know nothing of fiscal conservatism, despite their claims to the contrary. Their goal is often their own gain, not OUR gain. Yours, mine, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your church, your town, your city, your state, your country. If politicians were fiscally conservative and actually people who cared, these prison systems and our current “justice” system would not exist as it does now. Do you want the United States run like a business? Then think about risk management and vote according to how that would reduce spending and promote long-term savings and growth.
This begins with a change in our perspectives.
Rather than just judging someone for punching another, stabbing another, stealing, drinking, drugs, and so on as “bad” or “evil,” see it as what it really is: a cry for help. It’s normal and natural, due to how we are raised, to look at these people and judge them. It’s easy to look at our lives and how we didn’t take their path.
“Hey, I didn’t do that, so clearly there is something wrong with these people. They’re just messed up and there is no hope for them. Why would I spend my tax dollars on these people? What’s the benefit for me? I’m just trying to take care of my family.”
The benefit is that you pay less when you care. Less money is spent because we’re not running around putting out fires and applying a band-aid to a gunshot wound. You’ve seen this where you work. How much money is wasted jumping around chasing short-term budgets, rather than long-term plans? So even if you can’t care about broken children from a “love they neighbor” standpoint, then care how treatment of other humans impacts your life and family. Care that how we treat others has a ripple effect that could be devastating for you personally when one of those hurting people finds you on the street, or in your home, or at your work.
If we are born with empathy, it’s beaten out of us a children. For some children: literally.
But there are other children we need to care for. Not just the little people. The little child in each of us that still hurts. The “inner child” movement isn’t just a bunch of fluff-bunny hype. There’s some psychological reality to the concept, when applied appropriately.
When you think of yourself, do you think of yourself as you were as a teen? Or in your 20s? Or maybe 30s? When you look in the mirror, or at your hands, do you feel as old as your body is?
There you go.
As children grow up, they experience pain. We’re born with a very self-centered focus that works as a survival mechanism. As for the abused children, they care less about others because they must care for themselves. This can be true even for kids that are not abused. It is a self-preservation mechanism: mommy and daddy can’t be with us all the time. For abused and neglected children, caring for themselves may devolve into bullying, stealing, and acting in their own interests only. Because no one else does act in their best interests.
If we don’t care for them, who will? On a subconscious level, those kids know this. Many older kids are perfectly conscious of that fact.
The lack of caring may not be as drastic as the above example of bullying and theft. For the average person, it becomes: “I’m not spending my tax dollars for druggies to get rehab or food or buy more drugs”. Or, “I didn’t descend into drugs and crime and my life was hard too so clearly that person isn’t worth my time, money, or energy; clearly there is just something wrong with them and not me, so we shouldn’t waste any more funds on these people that are just lazy and trying to steal from us”.
Personally, I’d rather pay to keep someone fed, or even feed their drug habit, than have someone break into my home and hurt my family out of desperation. Even just from a financial perspective, that’s far cheaper for our government, and for me personally. The aftermath of crime on individuals is very expensive. This means that the aftermath is very expensive to businesses and governments too.
We need to care for our children. We need to care for other people’s children. We need to care for all of us grown-ups, that are still children inside those older bodies, that are hurting still. When another person does something hurtful to you or another, rather than just sit and judge them, ask yourself “why?”.
We all judge. I still judge. I often forget what my Grandmother taught me. But remembering to care every day, to care enough to understand those around me, helps me stay sane in a hateful world. Caring does not make me a doormat, nor do I have to allow myself to be a victim. I am mindful that there are some evil people out there and that there are psychopaths and sociopaths. And I remember that many of those who seem “stupid” or “weak” or “bad” are just another one of their victims.
Judge not, lest you surround yourself with people who only see the world in black and white, and when the day comes that you are “weak” or “stupid” you may also find yourself alone. This is the ultimate consequence of “judge not lest ye be judged”. Because when the day comes that you are alone, weak, and desperate, who will help you? Where will your safety net be?
And remember: the surest way to make something happen, is to use the word “never”.