One of the hardest things in life is remaining non-judgmental. Many of us claim to be completely open-minded in a self-righteous sort of way. “I would never judge a person…” But if we are true to ourselves and actually self-aware, we know how many disapproving thoughts fly through our heads. When a parent carries a screaming child down the grocery store aisle, we think ‘I’m glad I have better control over my own children.’ When a driver cuts us off in traffic, we pick the most salient attribute (car type, age of driver, sex of driver, etc) and make a disparaging comment under our breath. Now, thankfully, most of us keep these thoughts in our heads. Some of us even open our minds to why people behave the way they do. Perhaps that child missed a nap or is coming down with a cold. Maybe the driver is on route to the hospital to visit a sick relative, or perhaps he/she just made a mistake.
I believe that one way to cut down on prejudice is to watch how we label people. Take a few days and listen to your inner commentary. Do you tend to refer to teenagers as ‘punks’, to whiny children as ‘brats’? Do you refer to people by who they are or by what they are? On a more subtle note, is Mr B down the street a cranky old git or is he a man who has led a difficult life? Is my daughter a cystic fibrosis patient, a cystic, a cyster? Or is she a young girl with cystic fibrosis. How would you prefer to be addressed? ‘Person-first’ language is a great rule. We all have complicated lives. We all make mistakes. At some point in our lives we will all battle with illness, whether it’s the sniffles, the stomach flu, or a serious disease. We are all people first.
“The first step toward change is awareness…”