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The Notorious Art of Judging

Jeremie Gagnon, Grade 11 Prefect
I like to think that I am always right. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate. However, there is one thing I am absolutely awful at: judging people.
If there is one thing I will admit being wrong about, it’s judging others, not only because those I judge usually prove my preconceived opinion of them to be wrong, but I also because I realized that the act of judging others before you know them is wrong.

I’m not going to lie: I’m a serial judger. I don’t even know if that’s a phrase, but we’ll roll with it. I have a bad habit of using my first impression of someone to define my view of who they are. From their appearance, to the way they talk, to even the way they walk (I know I walk weird too, but that’s not the point).

These are all factors that have nothing to do with how they are as a person, but for some odd reason, I keep judging.
Take BJ for example. Three years ago, I had walked into the dining hall and sat at a table with a few of the boys. After I got up, I thought to myself, “Wow. This BJ guy isn’t someone I see myself being friends with.” (I wanted to say “jerk” there, but my mom told me not to.) And this was because I thought the way he talked was pretentious.

This was on my first day at Stanstead. By thinking that way, I categorized him and made myself distant, making it harder for me to get to truly know him. However, he ended up proving me wrong. He became one of my closest friends. I went from having a negative first impression of him to staying at his house every time I need a place to stay during breaks. All in all, he’s a pretty cool guy, so don’t be afraid to get to know him.

Not all stories have a good ending, however. There are plenty of times where I decided not to approach someone and get to know them due to the first impression they gave me. Great opportunities to meet interesting people that could have impacted my life were squandered due to my first impression of them.

But I am not alone. As a society, we have come to a point where stereotypes and judging are at the forefront of our worries. From constant labeling to societal standards, we all tend to group people together based on opinions informed by a social structure already in place. By doing so, we lose sight of what makes us different from each other and the beauty in knowing someone for who they really are.

And this is where horrible events, such as the Christchurch mass shooting in New Zealand a month ago, come into play. The killer knew absolutely nothing about the victims, except their religion. It could be said that the stereotypes associated with that religion are what caused him to attack. Sure, some might call him a psychopath, but at the end of the day, the stereotypes that he strongly believed in were at the root of the problem.

This is true for most hate crimes, racist encounters and even religious wars. When you think about it, it’s amazing how such a little thought as, “Oh, I won’t like this person because he or she looks like a nerd, and nerds are typically not very social,” can be so similar to thoughts that float in the minds of these so-called psychopaths. But we tell ourselves that “I’m not like that” or “Jer, that’s too far,” but it’s the truth, and there is no hiding from the truth. The only thing we can do is to try and eliminate our personal tendencies to impose stereotypes.

On a lighter note, here is something that we can all try to do on our own. I challenge all of you to stop creating opinions of fellow students before you get to know them. Someone’s first impression on you is always different than their last. So give them time instead of cutting the tie right at the start. You never know, they might prove you wrong. For me, a world without stereotypes and judging equals a truly free world. As students and teachers, let’s try to make our little world that is Stanstead a free one.

I’m going to leave you on a quote from Adnan Mithani that truly embodies the process of getting to know someone: “Getting to know someone is like investigating a crime scene where the culprit is constantly allowed to rearrange the evidence.”

                                                                                                                                                  Jérémie Gagnon, Grade 11 Prefect