Stop judging and move on, because we all do (follow the seeds of change)

Have you ever found it unfair that people put you in a straitjacket and failed to recognise your complex personality? Have you ever truly tried to change one part of yourself and managed to do so? Do you perhaps value intent more than actual results?

What we see and judge is often just a reflection of someone's changing self (Credits: Steve Patterson)
What we see and judge is often just a reflection of someone's changing self (Credits: Steve Patterson)

This post is about all that. About the fact that everything ‘human’ or social is dynamic. We know it for ourselves, yet, we tend not to acknowledge it for others. We tend to see things in static ways. We tend to judge, to put people in boxes and state that they act and that they are ALWAYS like this or that – as they act or are at the time we are observing. Making dangerous universal rules out of singular events.

Nothing could be more wrong. If we fail to recognise that every human develops actions and engages in social interactions in a non-static way, we do not give ourselves the credit of learning, of intent, of drive and inspiration. We are not robots, we are living, changing beings, following the multi-faceted and not-so-straightforward pathway of our life. We are all in perpetual transition – the ‘life in perpetual beta’ dear to Harold Jarche.

Even our cultures keep changing, so does our language; they reflect new conventions, adapt to novel situations and newly felt needs. That is the beauty of it. And this is also why I personally really don’t feel comfortable with the concept of civilisations when talking about current human groupings (though I have no problem talking about it for past phases of human history in a given context) and why I will never accept racism – we all come from a common cell too and like that cell we keep on changing and recombining ourselves.

Back on our individual behaviours: we may do things wrong, we might make mistakes, we perhaps miss the subtle and smart ways to perform a task or behave in a certain way. But we are trying. We are learning. We are adapting and changing. Even when we are deeply convinced that what we do is right and everyone else is wrong, we are not immune to external stimuli of change – ideas, questions, criticisms, intuitions, emotions… It might even be the moment when we are about to change our state, somewhat following the behaviour rules of a complex adaptive system. So, even in the thickest of our convictions, when we appear as rocks and blocks to others, we are changing. Our intent might guide us from inside, or those stimuli might pull us towards change from outside but, unless we follow a strictly codified dogma that prevents us from questioning parts of our path, we are moving ahead.

We are all following, sowing and reaping the seeds of change, and so are others around us. So let’s stop judging people and putting them in straitjackets on the basis of who they (always) are – because who they are is much influenced by what they do and what they do keeps changing, dynamically.

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Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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  1. Oops! I guess I used not enough words again. My point is not to deny people changing (profoundly) but first recognize we live in and emerging complex reality which is (also influenced by us humanity) changing as we speak. And within that reality we organise structures and systems that ‘allow’ the Netherlands to be one of the biggest weapons traders (be it weapons go through the Netherlands). Given that mechanisms lots of people ‘adapt’ (or learn) and make money. So, let’s change the rules / systems first and make it more cumbersome to step over to my dark side 🙂

  2. Thank you both for your points of view! Hereby some reactions 🙂

    @Jaap: Of course everyone judges regularly but my crusade here is to stop judging and giving up on people at the same time (thinking that one will always be like this or that).
    I totally disagree on the fact that people don’t change. I have seen late yet profound changes in my father which I would never have suspected. Discipline leads to oblivion of the constraint as well and we adopt new behaviours, we make them part of our habits – the tacit knowledge that M. Polanyi talked about. While certainly not everyone changes everything all the time, people that really do WANT to change sthg about themselves DO manage. I have managed this for myself too in some areas. The examples you give are typical of people that do not want to change. The trick is to mirror those bad examples and question them. If we don’t believe in the possibility of change we might as well give up altogether and kill ourselves because we’re doomed…
    Yes there is much more to discuss and I’d love to continue this 🙂 Thanks again!

    @Jaume I think you gave some pretty solid arguments and recognise, too, that much remains to be done and there will always be much to be done because new people keep coming on the face of the earth and as Jaap said, we are first taught (if at all), then showed and only then we discover things by ourselves and make them our own. It takes time.
    But again it boils down to being optimistic as to the possibility of change. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I prefer to be an optimist in the wrong than a pessimist in the right, it makes life much less bitter and adds on energy for change…

  3. I think this tweet I just received in my time line, is of interest to the subject of this post:

    I fall, I rise, I make mistakes, I live, I learn, I’ve been hurt but I’m alive. I’m human, I’m not perfect but I’m thankful. @GeorgeCIooney

  4. I understand the vision of Wjpels, but I can’t share it because it’s very dark. Mistakes (done again and again) is what makes us human. And learn from these mistakes makes us evolve as people, our cultures and as Society.

    We must try again and again. We need to learn. We have to adapt. And we have to change. We did it in the past and we will continue doing it in the future. And we must insist on what influences what people are / become, but for the best.

    Wjpels is true saying that people are opportunistic with short term profits in mind. But we can not generalize the attitudes that stand out more easily. If most people would act this way, would be few people on the planet. Instead, I see people fighting for the things that matter. Now and in the past. Just compare how we were 50, 100 or 500 years ago on issues like those raised by Wjpels and see that, nowadays, we are much better. Although there is still much work to do and that every human being must develop actions and participate in social interactions in a non-static way. We need to continue this perpetual transition.

  5. Pfff, I judge constantly on what people do! And so are you I think and there is no escape. That is where the Cynefin children party pattern story fits. I would like not to judge on what others are; that is given what I know, see, think, feel, fear etc, but the only start is to admit we do express xenophobia by nature and need to nurture different behavior (first taught, then showed and last self discovered).
    And I do not agree on people changing much doing what they do… unfortunately! I read about land and capital and dignity grabbing: by people (most likely often ‘hiding’ behind a self acclaimed authority, the WTO, a church of any flavor, management title, ‘a deal with the L-brothers’, enlightenment, WASH related corruption, projects etc.).
    I read about power extortion, genital mutilation, rent seeking and brutal killing while elites keep government hostage and send each other e-mails of Gucci shoes. And indeed, what people do influences what they are / become; in this case for the worse.
    So, no flower power and 1000 blossoms; the crux is how we deal with our ever changing habitat, ourselves and fellow earthlings; how to get away from the market driven log-frame commodification of everything which shapes the circumstances for people to act such we should put them in straightjackets!. People are opportunistic with short term profits in mind, social living hunter gathering primates…. there is much more to discuss 🙂

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