Judge Individuals, Not Groups

By Dr. Ben Kim

My younger sister is famous for telling me in a half-menacing, half-joking tone: "Ben, don't judge me!"

And I'm just as famous for responding with "Sarah, aren't you judging me right now in thinking and saying that I'm judging you?

My sister thinks that it's wrong to judge others. I think that we judge each other all the time, and that this is a good thing, as we need to judge others to make good decisions on how to use our time and other resources.

I know that the running joke/disagreement between my sister and me is more about semantics than anything else. I'm sure that she agrees with me about the necessity of evaluating other people's values. And I sure as heck agree with her feeling that we shouldn't be critical with a mean or petty spirit, even though this is exactly what I am sometimes.

One of the most memorable phrases I have ever heard is:

"Judge individuals, not groups."

I can't remember when I heard this or who said it, but I definitely feel a strong connection to it.

When we judge groups rather than individuals, I think we hurt our chances of having meaningful experiences that can enhance our health and overall quality of life.

There was a time when some bad personal and professional experiences with conventional medical practitioners left me wary of the entire profession; I found it difficult to meet new medical doctors and trust that they would try to address the root causes of their patients' health challenges, and teach their patients how to experience optimal health.

Today, I continue to believe that conventional health care systems don't spend enough time promoting illness and injury prevention. But I try not to adopt general beliefs or make blanket statements that paint all conventional doctors in a specific color.

While I believe that many conventional doctors don't focus on disease prevention and supporting the body's self healing mechanisms, many of these doctors can provide measurable help for specific health challenges - help that many alternative health care providers cannot provide as effectively.

For example, a short while ago, a long-time patient came to me after injuring her shoulder. After discussing her medical history and doing an evaluation, I felt that she was suffering with acute subacromial bursitis, a rare and extremely painful condition that can occur in people with a history of chronic shoulder tendonitis.

Since her pain was too great for me to provide any treatment other than some acupressure, my advice to her was to completely rest her shoulder until the inflammation subsided enough for me to provide some palliative treatments and light stretching sessions.

Unfortunately, her bursitis was so severe that the swelling and muscle guarding made it impossible for her to carry out the most basic activities of daily living.

I ended up accompanying her to the emergency room of our local hospital late one night to see about getting her help that I couldn't provide. The ER physician who examined her was very good about working with me to make the best diagnostic and treatment decisions for this poor woman. I greatly appreciated his recognition of my concern and thoughts on her situation; by gathering information from me on her situation and working together, he was able to address her situation more effectively and efficiently than he could have if she had gone alone. Within about 30 minutes from the time we entered the ER, she received an injection of a corticosteroid that, within 24 hours, changed the momentum of her condition for the better.

I have met enough physicians like the one I met recently to feel that it's inaccurate and unfair for me to believe or state that all conventional doctors are uncaring. Adopting the belief that all medical doctors are uncaring and incompetent would hurt my chances of having beneficial experiences like the one that I just had.

If I make a blanket statement like "doctors are morons," I feel that I only hurt my own credibility. I may be right in observing that many doctors don't do a good job of helping people experience optimal health, but to make a broad, sweeping judgment of an entire group of people signals immaturity. Disdain is disdain. Hate is hate. Intolerance is intolerance. No matter how justified disdain, hate, and intolerance may be, they don't help anyone, particularly the person who is being disdainful, hateful, or intolerant.

If we find one specific doctor to be uncaring, incompetent, or greedy, then it is to our benefit to judge that doctor as being unworthy of his position, and to make appropriate decisions going forward. It is not to our benefit to judge all doctors as being similar to that one doctor.

There are good doctors, and there are bad doctors. Period.

And we can substitute "doctors" in the above line with any other group of people, like lawyers, politicians, teachers, contractors, clergy people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Asians, Africans, Caucasians, Latinos, heterosexuals, homosexuals, etc.

Within every group of people, there are good people, and there are bad people. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that within every group of people, there is good behavior, and there is bad behavior.

When we consistently judge individuals rather than groups, we open ourselves up to special experiences and connections that we likely wouldn't have by holding onto prejudices.

Dr. Ben KimImprove Your Health With Our Free E-mail Newsletter

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