Judge Not! Listen and Learn

“Judge not lest ye be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) Jesus said this over 2000 years ago. In other words, don’t judge or you will be judged. Jesus went on to say, how you judge others is how you will be judged. Humans have struggled with this for thousands of years. We still do. It is easy to see the faults of others. Our own faults are much harder to see. When I was a Junior Achievement Volunteer some years ago, I asked my class of ninth graders, “In the last week how many of you were criticized for something.” The entire class had their hands up. When I asked, “How many of you were praised for something you did?” Only a few students raised their hands.

This week Lynnda and I attended our oldest granddaughter, Maddy’s senior thesis presentation. She is an English major. Maddy invited us to attend all 12 of the presentations and dinner prior. It was a blessing we were able to attend with a little driving. The students could do their thesis in creative writing or literature. Each presentation based on the students’ personal experiences was 10 minutes long. Our granddaughter wrote about the history of the college equestrian club and their current horses. She had photos and descriptions of each horse. Maddy used her artistic skills to draw each horse in a way to depict its unique personality.

For Maddy the accomplishment was more than creative writing and art which are two of her talents she has developed further in college. As a child Maddy loved riding until she was stepped on by a large horse. She quit riding and had a fear of horses that followed her to college. At college Maddy’s younger sister was riding and Maddy accompanied her to the horse barn for her lessons and hung out. Maddy liked the cats at the barn and viewed the horses from a distance.

Maddy decided to fight her fear and anxiety of horses and signed up for a trail ride. She enjoyed the ride and started taking lessons again, her fear and anxiety fought her the entire way. Maddy ultimately became part of the college equestrian drill team. Lynnda and I watched Maddy and the team perform back in October. They were awesome. Maddy showed how a person can turn a fear into a passion. She is now Vice-President of the college Equestrian Club. I’m proud of Maddy for the great job she did on her thesis and presentation. (We told her.) I didn’t know until I read her thesis that she still had a fear of horses. I’m proud of how Maddy chose to overcome her fears, setting an example for others. All things are possible.

I learned from the other presentations. Some got into political topics. One black student described what it was like to be black in a conservative white community after the George Floyd incident. Growing up in a black community he had never experienced racism at that level before. Some of the other presentations discussed gender, race and motherhood in today’s society. One young woman observed, most people thought it odd her wanting to become a good mom was more important than her degree.

There were no shout downs or pointed questions. Everyone was friends. The students’ relationships weren’t affected by their political views or observations. Lynnda and I made a point not to judge the speakers. We listened and learned something from each giving us a better understanding of the lives of young people today and the issues they must deal with. One student described how he and other students use their phones to entertain themselves during boring presentations by their professors. My generation “toughed it out”. Actually, I daydreamed when I was in class with a boring professor. Students today play games on their phones. The presentations were not about agreeing or disagreeing. They were about understanding and learning from another person. I have never been stepped on by a horse, been a young black man in a conservative white community or young woman wanting to be a mom with the man she loves. We can learn a lot from others if we choose to listen without first judging.

In my former corporate life, I was invited to be the industry representative on a panel about “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) at the University of Vermont. I made sure they were serious about learning and it wasn’t going to be a shouting match wasting everyone’s time. The event was well attended and facilitated. There was no shouting. We had civil discourse. I learned of their concerns and fears and why they felt as they did. The attendees learned from me. They had no idea the molecules from oil and natural gas make thousands essential of products we use every day. They didn’t realize “fracking” was over 70 years old or that rock stresses prevent fracks from going up into ground water. They didn’t know oil and natural gas were needed to manufacture windmills and solar panels. We agreed on much more than we disagreed on. They never thought about how anti-frack leaders aren’t giving up their computers, gasoline cars (or EVs) all made from or fueled by natural gas and oil from hydraulic fracturing.

Several Ivy League Universities are dealing with protests supporting Hamas and attacks on Jewish students. Are they allowing politics or their own fear to act ahead of their mission to educate? Jews and Arabs in the Middle East have been fighting for thousands of years. The losers in the Israel- Hamas War are innocent civilians. Israel and Hamas aren’t working on ways to find peace. What if these universities brought both sides together for a civil discussion on campus to search for common ground and solutions to conflict.

Being judgmental impacts our relationships and blocks effective communication with our spouses, children, friends and in business. Listen first and learn.

Greg Kozera, [email protected] is Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com (You can follow SCUSA on Facebook) He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert, high school soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.

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