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Swipe left on judgment in 2018

Tammy Swift, columnist

For 2018, I didn't give up chocolate or Diet Coke or — as my editor can attest — procrastination.

Instead, I vowed to surrender something much more tempting.

My judge-y pants.

In other words, I'm working to shed that state of mind I so easily slip into when summarily dismissing, condemning or judging.

I mean my all-too-common practice of taking everyone else's inventory. Of looking at what someone is doing or saying or wearing, and dismissing it based on an uninformed hunch or a gut reaction.

It's a mystery as to why I've become so judgmental. As a child, I rarely judged anything. Then again, that may explain why I almost lost a finger after poking it into the hamster cage at Woolworth's or why I uncomplainingly wore "denim-inspired" polyester.

My guess is that it's an innate character flaw (there I go, judging myself) coupled with a society that has grown increasingly more judgmental (there I go, judging everyone else).

Then again, think about it. We really have become more judgmental as a society. We live in a time of extreme political views, in which world leaders resort to name-calling and we so easily label and dismiss anyone whose ideologies or backgrounds are different from our own.

Social media not only nurtures this behavior, it emojifies it. Don't like something? You can scroll and troll, unlike or (if you're Midwestern like me) use a passive-aggressive "Surprise!" face.

The horrible beauty of social media is that you can flame and bully while cloaked in the relative anonymity of technology, and without ever needing to make eye contact.

We are invited to tweet and Yelp and judge at every turn. Yes, sometimes those reactions are based on real examination and discernment.

But, too often, they are based on a lightning-quick, emotion-fueled judgment. We are so inundated with information that the only way we can process it is to instantaneously label it and move on to the next post.

It's not too surprising that this approach has bled over into our overall lives. It seems so natural now to walk around and immediately quantify the worth of everything. That's ugly. That's stupid. That's the cutest puppy who ever lived. That's too hard. Any idiot can do that. That's not worth my time. Unfollow. Swipe left.

Initially, it seems like the only way to process and simplify life. But it also disconnects us from each other and keeps us stuck at the superficial level.

How do I know this?

Because, in the very short period of time known as "Tammy's No-Judge 2018," I have struggled constantly with the need to judge. A life of judgment can feel so cynical and disappointing after a while.

But I'm working at it. I've found it works if I breathe and take time for a little thought and compassion.

For instance, even though I struggle with weight personally, I also am ashamed to admit that I used to judge those who were morbidly obese. "How could they do that to themselves?" I would ask, conveniently forgetting my own tendency to self-soothe with sweets.

But at some point, I became aware of childhood trauma — and how powerful that can be in determining how we treat our own bodies as adults. Maybe people don't drink or overeat or do drugs because they are simply lazy and irresponsible. Maybe they were once told by their parents that they were worthless, or they were sexually abused as a child, or they were abandoned by someone they loved. Maybe the only way they can cope now is to "numb out" with food, building a wall of flesh that literally barricades them from the potential chaos and damage around them.

And so, although it won't be easy, I will continue my one-woman war on judgment.

Swipe left on judgey-ness; swipe right on empathy.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.

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