It is easy to be judgmental. Some might say that being judgmental is a necessary survival skill because it allows people to evaluate if they are being threatened. Those who study Mussar, the Jewish guide to self-improvement, understand that the “judgmental nature” of a person is one that must be both listened to and tuned out. At the heart of Jewish wisdom, however, is the firm belief that no person can truly judge another, because only God sees the complete picture.
First impressions are often wrong. This is true not just about people, but about things and experiences as well. Almost everyone can recall situations that they expected to be terrible, but actually were quite enjoyable.
Ben Azzai, who contributed to Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, provided the following sage advice: “Despise no man and deem nothing impossible; for there is no man who does not have his day and there is no thing that does not have its place” (Pirkei Avot 3:3)
At the heart of Ben Azzai’s advice is optimism. Many people judge the world pessimistically; they assume things are unfair or that success is unattainable. But really, without access to the larger picture, it is impossible to have an accurate perspective. Despising a person is often based on an assumption that the person has something he/she doesn’t deserve. Believing something is impossible is often a reflection of one’s preconceived notions of how the world should be. But God created the world; God knows what each person’s role in the world is meant to be, and God determines what is or is not possible.
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