J: Judgment – What It’s Really Like

Judgement | WIRL Project

This post is part of a series titled, “A-B-Cs – What It’s Really Like”. Each week a new letter and its word will be revealed. Each word’s explanation will illustrate significant personal meaning, application and ultimately demonstrate, What It’s Really Like… 

Judgment – some have more of it than others. Some good, some bad. Its juxtaposition has its dilemmas:

When to advance/when to withdraw
When to have one more/when to close the tab
When to take a risk/when to take a conservative route
When to adjust course and audible/when to stick to the game plan

The ultimate lesson in judgment comes from the sage lyrics of Kenny Rogers’ – “The Gambler”:

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

I remember as a boy playing this album on my parents’ 78 RPM record player and singing the lyrics at the top of my lungs. At the time, I really had no idea what the lyrics meant. All I could picture was a bunch of cowboys sitting around a table playing cards; which could not have been any more badass to a young boy. This song pops into my head or plays on the radio every so often. Each time it plays the lyrics seem to ring a bit less hollow as I age. In addition, the older I get the more I understand and realize a high percentage of most people do not possess the capacity of judgment, let along good judgment.

You are always told, “use your best judgment” when tasked with non-critical decision making. I think some aspects of judgment are hereditary and others are learned behavior.  Some are just plain stupid. I am convinced that there are people whose inner voice screams much louder when it comes to identifying what is right and wrong. An example of this lack of the inner voice is when someone would risk pleasing another while jeopardizing the well-being of themselves and others. The situation I am about to describe is likely not what you are thinking. It is a classic case of Southern hospitality gone bad.

Since moving to the northern suburbs of Atlanta I have discovered an epidemic of questionable judgment while driving. In South Georgia it was more common to not use your turn signal that it was to use it. While the majority of ATLians signal to turn and switch lanes, several of its rural suburban drivers possess a habit to yield the right away.  Never in my life have I have seen so many people willing to completely stop their car, at the risk of being rear-ended, to allow a person stopped at a stop sign to advance in front of them.

Recently, I was a waiting to turn left at a ‘T’ stop sign. When I looked to my right I saw an oncoming car approaching at the rate of approximately 45mph. I patiently waited for the car to pass by before executing my left hand turn. As I looked right to check the opposite direction and look left again I noticed that the car I was waiting for to pass by was at a complete stop in the road at the 2 o’clock position in front of me. I figured they were making a cautious, un-signaled turn left in front of me. Instead I became shocked when I noticed the driver gesturing for me to turn left in front of her. My jaw about hit the floorboard of my truck. Only two days before I saw a similar scenario play out in front of me that nearly became a horrific 5-6 car crash. With precious cargo in my vehicle (my son) I decided that I would stay put. The driver refused to take no for an answer as she denied my waves for her to continue. I became angry towards her for putting me and my son at risk and substituted the wave gesture to an emphatic slow 180-degree shake of my head while screaming, “NO!  NO! NO!  YOU GO!” The standoff seemed to have lasted five minutes, but was probably 20-30 seconds total. By the end of the confrontation the line of traffic waiting to advance to the stop sign began honking their horns at me to move and there was a line of right-of-way traffic mounting behind the overly generous female driver that I am now convinced was trying to get me killed. I finally checked one last time to my left and floored it out of there. If I were to have got into an accident there who would have been at fault? Me.  Just follow the rules of the road! This is one example of EXTREMELY POOR JUDGMENT.

A few days ago I was scanning through news headlines online. I read a title that alarmed me. The headline previewed a story that highlighted a police officer that should have discharged his weapon in the line of duty for the protection of himself and the welfare of the community but feared doing so because the criminal suspect was an armed African-American teenager. In the middle of an armed altercation the officer cited that for a split second he actually considered not returning fire with the armed suspect out of fear of becoming the country’s next Darren Wilson (the officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri over one year ago). Lapse in judgment and lack of clarity can be catastrophic in life or death situations. In this instance, it prevented this officer from properly doing his job.

Passing judgment is the worst kind of judgment. It can be difficult to rid your mind of stereotypes, labels and pre-conceived thoughts toward individuals you do not know. Even if you think you know someone it can still occur. Many of my male colleagues have wives that do not work. There are times after my wife and I have had a long week of work I find myself building up resentment toward some of those families. The feeling gets stronger each time I pay the bill to my son’s daycare. Part of me feels robbed not only economically for the deep financial commitment for preschool, but to the time that my wife and I lose with our sons because we both choose to work. Passing judgment just as yielding the right-of-way may not be in the best interests or the well-being of you and those around you. Truth be told, when it comes to the assessment of your judging others you’ll probably be the judge of that.

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Husband. Father. Brother. Teacher. Coach. Sports fan. Weather geek. Backyard vacationer.

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