Trial and Error

Never judge a book by its cover.  My granny taught me that when I was small.  But Jesus takes it even further.  Jesus says, ‘don’t judge’.  Period.

Well, luckily for me, this isn’t one of my struggles. I’m not a judgemental person.  Seriously – it’s another one of those sins that’s passed me by.  I would never dismiss someone based on how they looked. That would be like,  totally wrong.   Just as well  I’m such an  excellent guage of character.   I’m telling you – just a few minutes with someone and I’ve got their number. That might sound like a judgement, but I can assure you  it’s not. Instead it’s a credible and legitimate assessment – based on some very solid  gut feelings.

When I first met my now husband, I took an instant and violent dislike to him. So strong were my feelings that I advised his then girlfriend that ‘she could do better’.  Reader, I married him, (In my defense, this was  was seven years later and long after the relationship had ended, but nonetheless, it’s quite a conversion). My guts told me that he was Bad News and certainly not datable. Had I listened to my instincts…well, I would have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. 

I’d like to say I learnt from this. But instead, I’m still judging, albeit more subtly.Take for example, Amanda Knox.  I know she’s been exonerated of  murder  – but the jurors got it wrong. I’m sure she’s guilty.  Why? Er – I can feel it.  Well she just looks like a bad person.  All sexy and self-confident and guilty. Have I ever met her? No. Have I reveiewed any evidence of her case? No. Have I any basis for my suspicions, aside from a few newspaper headlines? None whatsover.  And yet – those gut instincts never lie.  Well, only sometimes.

In an excellent article in The Guardian, Ian Leslie analyses how our instincts allow us to make judgements with no basis in fact. He gives this example;

‘In 2008 a group of Norwegian researchers ran an experiment to better understand how police investigators come to a judgment about the credibility of rape claims. Sixty-nine investigators were played video-recorded versions of a rape victim’s statement, with the role of victim played by an actress. The wording of the statement in each version was exactly the same, but the actress delivered it with varying degrees of emotion. The investigators, who prided themselves on their objectivity, turned out to be heavily influenced in their judgments by assumptions about the victim’s demeanour: she was judged most credible when crying or showing despair…In reality, rape victims react in the immediate aftermath of the event in a variety of ways: some are visibly upset; others are subdued and undemonstrative. There is, unsurprisingly, no universal reaction to being raped. The detectives were relying on their instincts, and their instincts turned out to be constructed from inherited and unreliable notions about women in distress’.

Our judgements matter – however we try to excuse them.  They put innocent people in prison. They ostracise and condemn and wound and destroy.   They reveal a heart that thinks it’s smarter and better than others. We might think we know the truth and that we can see what others don’t. In fact, we’re often as blind as those we rush to condemn.

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