Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Eagle Butte

Too quick to judge: we destroy what we could build

Jody Rust

Too many people pass judgment on others in ways that tear each of us down rather than raise each of us up.

People complain about the opportunities they do not get, and people complain about the opportunities they do get.

People complain that council members and directors act as if they are above reproach, or have something against “full-bloods”, or are too “wasicu” or only work to help and protect family members.

Teachers and administrators at the schools are criticized for not doing their jobs well enough, for failing students, for allowing bullying, for having a life outside of school and not doing more for the students than they already do.

All of these complaints are one way to hold people accountable for their positions and jobs, but they are also a way to create animosity, prevent change, and chase good people away.

We are our own worst enemies, because we are so quick to judge what others should or should not do and yell that judgment across the rooftops, often with little more than a narrow perspective of a much larger situation.

As an educator and journalist, I have been criticized a lot, even though I know how to do my jobs, and I am good at them. I am good because I have had a lot of education and training, I listen to people who coach me, and I try to improve.

There are many people in education, working in tribal programs, private businesses and public offices who are very much like me — they know their jobs and they are good at them.

Extensive training and education does not make a person good at his or her job, nor does experience, but training, education and experience are definitely preferred when the alternative is to hire someone with none of it.

Why do we hire people for jobs if we are going to question every move they make in those jobs?

I could claim I know what I am doing when my friend comes to me with an engine problem, but a mechanic from Ampride is going to be a safer bet on that engine than me, and I am not qualified to evaluate that mechanic’s quality of work.

However, if the mechanic said he fixed my engine problem, and I paid for it, and the problem persists, then I have a right to question his service or the quality of his service, and I am obligated to listen to the explanation he has for that service.

Perhaps he fixed one problem that masked another, or perhaps he did not do his work correctly. If he screwed up, he needs to own it and fix it. If the problem was more complicated than at first he thought, then I need to accept that there is still more work to be done.

Whichever the case, a mistake or a hidden issue, if he learns from it, then he deserves to keep his job, and can mark that situation down for gained experience and knowledge.

The issue here is that professionals go through training and education and develop experience in our work for a reason — so we can do that work.

Some positions require additional training, and there is always room for people to become better at their work.

Feedback on the job is important and necessary. The public should speak their minds when they think a person is not doing his or her job correctly.

What upsets me is that far too often members of the public, me included, criticize how people do or do not do their jobs, and we really do not have all the facts, nor do we really know what someone else’s job entails. We are not qualified to judge their performances on their jobs.

We assume our simplified version of their work is the truth, and ask how hard can it be to get it right?

“Not that dumb,” we might say, or “Not that lazy,” or “Not that scared,” depending on the nature of our criticisms.

This kind of criticism might be better imagined with this example:

You are sitting outside a building and calling a play-by-play of what is going on inside the building without being able to see inside. You only saw Joe walk out at 11:00 a.m. and came back into the office building at 3:00 p.m. He must be playing hooky and when he is at work, he probably plays solitaire on his computer, because he did not answer my phone call, you think.

The public needs to raise questions to gather more information and make more informed decisions before passing judgment or evaluating whether or not someone else is doing his or her job poorly.

Leaders need to work harder to better communicate with the public, but they have to be able to do their jobs without having to stop at every juncture to justify themselves to people on the outside looking in.

Once we have all the information we can get, our criticism of others should be given in ways that respect the truth of the situation. Those being criticized need to accept that truth as well, and we would all benefit in recognizing when we see the same truth, but come to different conclusions and judgments about that truth.

For example, we may both acknowledge that the student was written up for disturbing class, but the parent may think that the student had good reason for the disturbance and the teacher may not accept the reason as an apology for the disturbance.

Is the teacher wrong for establishing expectations for the classroom and writing the student up for disturbing the class?

Is the parent wrong for asking that the student be excused from the write-up because of the reason why the student disturbed the class?

Is there even a right or wrong in this scenario?

Too often we base our judgments on morality, what is right or wrong, without realizing that depending on how we look at the situation, neither party is right or wrong.

This conundrum makes criticizing and accepting criticism more difficult in our day to day situations, but if we all really want a more peaceful world — if we all want to live with less drama — then we each need to hold ourselves more accountable to our responsibilities and mistakes, and we each need to suspend judgment of others until we can make more informed judgments.

One way to do that is to “bite our tongues” and check our tempers more often, ask better questions to conduct research from informed, expert sources and LISTEN to the responses.

To do all of this, we have to be able to pay attention long enough to learn, accept and acknowledge when we are wrong, a practice being nice to one another — even if we dislike each other.

One Lakota teaching that I love and constantly remind myself to honor is All My Relations — which inherently teaches us to respect one another. How can we respect one another if we spend all of our time throwing darts with our words as we judge and criticize based on assumptions and limited information?