Friday, 15 April 2011

Judging and being judged

I could be mistaken for being a little bit odd...

It is difficult to explain morally driven lifestyle choices to other people without them feeling like you are judging them. This is a problem I have come up against many times since starting to make personal lifestyle changes in response to increasing knowledge of environmental issues.

The reality is that I am not judging anyone. The ethos of transition, as I understand it, is that we work together and don't judge the choices that others make, as long as when they are aware of the facts they try their best. After all you can never know or understand the reasoning behind peoples decisions, because you are not in their position. And there is no 'right' low carbon lifestyle, it is all experimental and everyone needs to find the path that suits them.

I think it mostly come down to misunderstandings. It is hard not to feel judged yourself when people ask you why you do something a bit differently, such as not using shampoo or conditioner and travelling long distance journeys by bike. As the implication of the question could be interpreted as - you are a bit 'weird'. Although that probably isn't what was meant. Then your explanation inevitably involves talk of 'what I think is right'. This immediately puts peoples backs up, as they interpret it as 'what they are doing is wrong'. Now focussing on your decisions and personal choices rather than making general statements can help, but doesn't completely avoid the problem.

The unfortunate consequence of this is that people then start getting defensive, which makes you feel like you are under attack and so begins a negative cycle.

This effect doesn't exactly encourage other people to follow your lead. Guilt and hurt feelings are not what we need. The only solution I have found so far is to explicitly tell people that you are not judging them, but this is only possible with certain people and in certain situations.

If anyone has any advice on this inherent problem then please do leave a comment and share it with everyone.

Photo: keeping the midges out and the warmth in on my cycle tour last summer (Ruth Clark)


  1. I have good news Kerry - all you have to do is grow old. An entirely natural process. A number of things happen - you learn how to present your case more subtly, you learn whose opinion to value and you learn that there are some people that are just not open to any concept of change. You don't lose your passion but you do recognize your own limitations and don't get so frustrated when things don't work out as you hoped.

    It is not such a painful process, and BTW I don't think you are odd :)

  2. I'd agree with what John said, and add to this that the reason why being "non judgemental" works within Transition is only because there is existing consensus that a low-carbon lifestyle is to be followedf.

    in the absence of such consensus, in some cases we *need* to be judgemental, and to accept judgement.

    After all thats what the Courts do as a last resort when two parties disagree, sometimes to the point of violence being used and the rule of law being transgressed.

    If judges in London hadn't told Scotland Yard that falsely imprisoning protesters and roughing them up wasn't a legal thing to do, they'd be yet more inclined to do it!

    Also the harsh facts are is that if you follow an alternative path in life you *are* going to meet opposition, and perhaps even lose friends.

    Since becoming involved in Transition myself I've not made enemies as such - but drifted away from a lot of younger friends as they don't want to abandon their hedonistic and hypermobile lifestyle which revolves around easy access to cars to chase after the next party (I don't drive and prefer to ride my bikes and e-bikes everywhere!)