I’ve had several random conversations with different people lately about language, how we use it, how we interpret it, and the challenges people face when they are bi or multi-lingual. I was delving into this topic with a friend of mine who spent his childhood in Greece and moved to Australia at the age of 10, not knowing a single word of English. You absolutely would not know that English was his second language now, he is ridiculously fluent. However, I was curious if it was still a challenge at times. For example, when he’s in his head, is it in Greek or in English? When he dreams, is it in Greek or English? I truly thought the subconscious would revert to the mother-tongue but, according to him, 90% of his thoughts are in English as that’s what he’s now constantly surrounded by and communicates in. The exception was interesting though. He pointed out that there are times of frustration when an English word doesn’t actually exist to describe / explain a thought or feeling, but the word does exist in Greek. My brain does like to go off on tangents when I get thinking about things like this and this one conversation took my mind into a bit of a rabbit hole…words / language and the interpretation of them. How is it that one word can mean so many different things depending on context, inflection, facial expression, tone…I could go on! When I say the word, it means one thing to me but something completely different to the recipient. Our words are one of our primary methods of communicating, yet they’re so open to interpretation, particularly in the age of ‘texting not talking’!
This then led me to pondering one of my all time favourite words: judgement. Not to forget its various forms: judge, judging, judgemental etc. I could almost guarantee that if you hear one of these words, particularly if it’s being used to describe you or someone else, you will attach a negative emotion to it. But why? The dictionary defines judgement as: the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. There is absolutely nothing negative in that. Human beings, by their very nature, judge! All day, every day, we are taking in information and making it mean something ie: judging! It’s one of those crazy words though, and I wish there was another word for what most people make judgement mean that more accurately described it. Perhaps there is in Greek – I should ask my friend!
So, the usual interpretation of judgement is: to form a negative opinion of someone or something or to look down upon (condescending). Something I hear people say about themselves quite often is “I don’t judge” and it never fails to make me laugh (because I just judged their comment about themselves as being ludicrous!). Of course you judge! You judge CONSTANTLY and…it’s perfectly ok! How else would you make decisions, determine if you like or don’t like something. Where I judge judgement to be not ok is when you believe your opinion is “it”. That your acceptable standards should apply to the whole world and the whole world should comply. When you decide another person should behave in a way you deem to be acceptable, based on your judgement or when you form an opinion that a person is below you or less than because of their behaviour or choices, that, to me, is (insert appropriate Greek word that describes this action and doesn’t exist in English but is what people term as judgemental). One of my favourite expressions ever is “LIVE AND LET LIVE” and I am so grateful for the diverse, challenging and interesting experiences I have had in my life that have led me to be an incredibly open minded and accepting person.
I love the plights for equality but I am of the firm belief that, until we get to a stage where we no longer have to discuss it, we have not achieved it. This is another topic for another day – and one I’ll get equally passionate over but my point really was that acceptance is king. My blanket rule is: live your life however you choose. Unless you’re intentionally hurting other living beings, your choices are your choices and, quite frankly, fuck those that condemn you because you’ve made a choice they wouldn’t make themselves. I only ever want people in my life that I can be 100% truthful with. Friends that I can tell ANYTHING to and, whether they would make those choices themselves or not, they will not love me any less for mine. Our diversity is what makes us a complete society. When we learn to love each other for our very essence, our differences become fascinating, and things to learn from, not “good or bad”. When we do away with the condemnation, the belief that our thinking should be everyone’s thinking, and get back to just loving each other, the fight goes away.
Language really is interesting. Judgement is a fun word to play with, I wonder when it got such a bad rap?