6. We tend to make up context or motivations for other people's actions, particularly online.
I remember hearing one of my closest friends trying to discourage her daughter from playing with a little girl who wasn't a member of our faith.
I was shocked. Here was this dear friend, someone I looked up to and respected so much, someone who often criticized judgmental thinking, teaching her daughter to be judgmental. Maybe it's inescapable. Maybe we are judgmental, I thought.
This unsettled me so much, I mulled over it for a while. Then suddenly it dawned on me. She wasn't the one being judgmental. I was. I had only overheard a tiny snippet of conversation, and I made a snap judgment, assuming the worst. But, after learning more of the story, I quickly realized her reasons had nothing to do with the other girl's faith and everything to do with her daughter's health, safety, and incidents that had happened before I was completely unaware of.
The point is, we never understand the full context. We never understand where a person has been or what they've experienced or what they are thinking, and it's unfair to assume about their motivations.
There is no place where this is truer than on social media. Often, we read one blog, see one picture, watch one video, and we assume we know exactly what kind of person everyone else is. But we need to stop. That's not true, nor is it fair. We can never fully understand another person, so we should never post judgments about them publicly or vindictively.
I generally have an optimistic view of the world and humanity. Except maybe online. Everyone's a critic online. And so many people are looking to pick battles or get offended. I've noticed that often when someone disagrees with my viewpoint or something I've written, when I kindly ask them to explain, at our core we are talking about the very same thing. Sometimes we just use different language to express our beliefs, and that leads to misunderstanding.
But even when my view completely contrasts with the person I am speaking or writing too, I quickly realize their motivations and their goals are generally worthwhile and entirely lovely; they just have a different political or religious or ideological opinion of how to get there.
The hard truth is, we—Mormons, Democrats, Republicans, old, young, married, single, gay, straight— are all judgmental. In fact, we need to be to make the endless decisions that arise in a day. What food should I eat, what job should I take, what movie should I watch, when should we start our family—all of those decisions require judgment.
But when it comes to people, we need to realize one important fact: everyone is blind to something. Everyone is flawed in judgment, wrong occasionally, and even sometimes misguided. And that's okay. That's why God has allowed us to rely on His judgment through prayer and that's why we have the Savior's Atonement to fill in the gaps we lack. The only time judgment and blindness become dangerous is when we allow pride to convince us our perspective is always right. Instead of judging other people's intentions or beliefs, we should always strive to reevaluate ourselves.
Elder Hales in the April 2017 general conference gave the perfect counsel for how we can strengthen ourselves and how we should treat others, judgments aside: "The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ . . . all necessary to our standing strong in these last days. As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us. There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends."