Judgementalism On My Part: How To Stop It

Something that I found out about myself a while ago is that I am a self-defeater. I will make a snap judgement about someone based on there appearance. For example: In prison there are racial/gang divisions that are prevalent. So, in order to avoid getting involved with certain types of people I will look for the appearance first, like shaved heads, lots of tattoo’s and a beard. That tells me that person is a white supremist. If the person is black, walks slow, talks about pimping and how many b*****s they got on the line I would assume that they are gangsters and hate white people.
So obviously there were some flaws…no problem admitting when I am wrong. Sometimes I was spot on, but instead of getting to know any of them, I would see those key markers, make my decision and then boom, that was it. I wouldn’t talk to them, look at them, make deals with them, They had nothing coming from me ever. When they tried to talk to me I gave short, curt answers to piss them off and keep them away from me. Anything to avoid them really.
Then I went through this program, its called Redemption. I might get in trouble for saying it’s name, but I don’t care, it’s a great program and really helped me in a big way. The whole point of the program is to end the old prison culture, declare a new one and break the barriers that we as inmates put in place, like segregation. Anyway, during the first few weeks of the class I was highly guarded. Then something happened about 3/4 way through. This man, whom I knew to be a white supremist, he had been locked up since he was 16, and was now in his 40’s who hated sex offenders and gays and everyone who wasn’t in his immediate circle. This man told a story that changed my whole view, he spoke of a childhood experience that I identified with. Specifically his father would give him pets to raise, then, when his father was feeling that his frequent beatings weren’t pleasing him enough, meaning that they weren’t cowering anymore, he made the boy slaughter his pets.
As you could imagine, he told this story with such matter-of-fact-ness, such vivid detail you could tell that 40 years later it still haunted him. I could see the pain in his eyes as he told the story and I began to cry. Mainly because I could feel his pain, not in a metaphorical sense, but I could truly see the pain welling up inside him. I took that opportunity to thank him in front of everyone for sharing such a powerful and private thing. He was immediately humanized to me. I could see him for the man he is, not the outer shell that he portrayed and he responded wonderfully to it. He broke his own barriers and suddenly we talked outside the group and said hello on the breezeway and nodded to each other in visit. There was this amazing underlying “I get you” that both of us respected and he wasn’t the only one that happened too.
This whole experience got me to see people for the people that they are, to not judge them. To take the time and give an olive branch to everyone. What if I don’t and that is the one person who will be my friend forever, what if that man passing by on the street that looks angry needed just one person to ask him “what’s wrong and how can I help?” what if…so I operate that way and it has done something unthinkable, it’s create a giant network of friends and pillars of support.
It’s up to me to provide the information that people have about me. It’s up to you every time you talk to someone that is another chance to update their central file on you. Whether it’s a positive exp. or a negative. I live by that.

With Love

Jeff Utnage