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Thin Lines – Misjudgment and Perception

Updated on April 30, 2011

Too many thin lines stumble us on daily basis. Those lines are almost invisible between: misjudgment and perception, ego and confidence, fairness and revenge, having a sense of responsibility and drowning in excessive remorse, love and obsession, caring and over-protection, freedom and rebelliousness, niceness and naiveness … the list just goes on and on.

The Line between Misjudgment and Perception

If it were for me, I would have painted this line red, placed it next to a huge STOP sign to raise alertness each time I came near ‘Misjudgment’.  I would have altered humans' genotype to stop us from misjudging others.

I do realize that judging is a pervasive human nature that we seek to distinguish between the good and the bad, to select our friends and foes, and in certain cases to protect ourselves. 

Nevertheless, I grew up hating and disliking anything that had to do with judging others. Perhaps because as humans we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions yet judge others by their actions, and to me that is far from fair.

We, and I do not exclude myself, judge others -be it family, friends, celebrities, politicians, and even nations- using our perspectives, our senses and most of all our code of ethics.

We sort people by putting them in categories. We judge them based on the traits we have attached to those categories. And the nicest of us try to keep their verdicts to themselves.

Nevertheless, personally I wouldn’t want to be treated as a raceless individual. Growing up as a Muslim female in Yemen impacts many of my traits and motives. You would fail to totally comprehend my actions without taking my race into account. In a matter of fact, my sentiments towards misjudgment are derived from the prophet’s teachings, Mohammed (PBUH).

“If you hear about your brother something of which you disapprove, seek from one to seventy excuses for him. If you cannot find any, convince yourselves that it is an excuse you do not know.” --Hadîth reported by al-Bayhaqî.

"Should you become eager to mention another’s faults, recall your own." --Ar-Rafi

So what am I complaining about? I am complaining about devaluing individuals into nothing but the boxes we place them in. To be neutral doesn’t entail blindness towards external appearances or mere facts. Neutrality, in my opinion, entails blindness towards prejudices.

We would fail to understand colleagues if our spectacles saw nothing but job titles, nationalities, religions or even genders. On a larger scale, we could ultimately harm others, even proudly, if they are nothing but the group, the collection, or the box we place them in.

It bewilders me to see individuals loathing strangers for no other reason than knowing that those strangers belong to a different group, a dissimilar coalition. That is why the most toxic hatred is not between individuals but rather between groups.

If you think about it, the nastiest crimes that make headlines are usually caused by unjustified hatred towards a particular cluster rather than an individual.

When treating collections, we have nothing but prejudice and underlying assumptions. However when treating individuals, we take driving motives and personal intentions into account. 

If you knew that the cheap friend you have been avoiding is saving to help his poor family, your definition of cheap would most likely change.

If you knew that the lazy supervisee you have been belittling is struggling to keep up with a demanding job when he/she is ought to be given a compassionate care leave, you would probably realize that the supervisee is far from being lazy.

I am not claiming that all individuals are heroes. I am just saying that almost each incident we judge has: a purer intention, a higher motive that we shouldn’t neglect.

Rarely do we spend enough time to analyze the motives unless the action we are analyzing is too good to be true. In which case, we make an effort to find the genuine motive behind the good deed. How many times have you heard “I am sure something is in it for him/her” or “He/She only did this because … ”

Ulterior, selfish and even dishonorable motives do exist, but from God's mercy intentions are concealed and even psychology professionals wouldn't be able to specifically assert one's motives.

In other words, instead of diagnosing the un-diagnosable, why not rise to give people the benefit of the doubt under all circumstances especially when their actions are far from being destructive or catastrophic.


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    • noorin profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Canada

      @Lisa HW, thank you very much for sharing your personal stories, I really appreciate it. And so sorry for taking so long to reply but been out of town and the places I travelled to didn't have Wifi access.

      I know what you are talking about because misjudging people is also a "button-pusher" for me.

      People usually think of minorities when they think of "racism" or even stereotypes in general. But stereotypes are so common and pervasive whether they are racial, ethnic, gender-based (including ones based on sex or sexual orientation ... the list goes on and on ! Thus people even the ones who don't belong to minorities are still subjected to stereotypes.

      It's tempting to think that stereotypes help us in understanding others; it's also tempting to think that stereotypes never hurt !But in my own opinion, stereotypes almost always reflect deeply rooted systematic and societal injustices. For instance, the stereotype that women are irrational or too emotional is a mere reflection of the acts that hinder women from reaching their full potential. Likewise, the stereotype that aboriginals are violent or irresponsible is a mere reflection of the horrendous systematic racism that they are subjected to.

      Finally, your comments whether they are page- length or "book-length" :P are more than welcome in my hubs so keep on stepping by.


    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      noorin, I appreciated and agree with your Hub, particularly on the point about giving people the benefit of the doubt.

      I hesitate to even bring up my point here, because so many people have been the victims of violence and malice that stems from nothing more than their ethnicity; and my own experience with discrimination and being unfairly (and ignorantly) judged not only doesn't involve my being treated with violence or overt malice, but it's a matter of people not even realizing how much they unfairly judge. Even so, it's resulted in some major, major, oppression in my life.

      I'm a White American women with Scottish and Irish and English ancestors. Nobody's worried that I'm going to commit a violent crime or otherwise create any problems in society. I'm generally treated with kindness by most people, and if not kindness then most often "neutral-ness". I have "an honest face" and a "dime-a-dozen" ethnicity where I live, and in the US in general. I have an obviously non-aggressive demeanor/look, so I tend to take a little bit of backseat in crowds; but I don't care. Nothing that goes on in crowds is worth fighting over as far as I'm concerned.

      I tend to attract kids, dogs, and anyone who needs help outside because I look like a "nice person" and look approachable and non-threatening. Here's my problem: First, people tend to not realize that I'm a strong, intelligent, capable, adult who doesn't need their protection and/or guidance and/or advice - and who certainly isn't in the market to be interested in having them appoint themselves my "teacher" or "parent".

      That's always been something irksome that I've had to deal with, but it became a big problem when my life circumstances meant I showed the strong side of me and essentially "freaked people out" because they seemed to think all there was to me was "nice" (with "nice" being associated with being a pushover, being too stupid not to be nice, wanting to please people, etc. etc. The "nice" doesn't come from those things. It comes from being a kind person who doesn't want to be rotten to other people. I'm not aggressive, but I'm as assertive as they come. I've always seen "nice" as being "smart enough to know how to be a person" - not "too dumb not to be nice".

      I've fought off the tendency of people to want to put in their two cents on my life and/or have some say in it (or at least have me listen to their say on my own life) for my whole adult life because not only do I come across as "nice", but I was young looking for a whole lot longer than many people are. Standing up for myself and/or getting angry in the face of people who think they have a right to an opinion about what I do, a right to judge me, understanding of what I'm thinking and why, or a right to have me "buckle under" listen to their "two cents" (or care about their approval) has often brought about some real wrath; the same way parents might get really angry if their fourteen-year-old kid "bucked them".

      I've been an adult for just about forty years at this point. I'm sick of running into people who don't seem to notice that I'm not fourteen (or whatever); and it all comes from, I think, the fact that I "look like a little nothing" because I'm not intimidating, am short in stature, and - as I said - come across as nice.

      THEN, when people notice I'm angry I'll get: "Why is she always angry when everyone is so nice to her?" Worse, she my word was questioned years ago when I had to get a divorce, there were people who corrected me/those words and said "how things really were" (whether they knew how things "really" were for me or not).

      Even worse than that, if I try to point out to people that I'm not a pushover or stupid just because I happen to be kind and respectful to others, that's when I've been seen as "thinking I'm something I'm not" or "over-blowing my own positive attributes", even "being delusional"!!!

      So, a huge, huge, mess was made of my life - and all because people can't imagine that someone who looks and sounds and behaves the way I do could possibly be as capable, responsible, mature (maybe more so in a lot of case) as they. If I say something I can't make myself seen as "an equal adult", and if I shut up and say nothing and silently accept the fake reality that someone else has built around my life; well... everyone's apparently happy. Everyone, that is, but I.

      I used to be ashamed to admit that a strong, solid, independent, capable, person like I am couldn't stop others from seeing someone other than the person I am. I eventually learned, too, to be a little intimidated about speaking up, because I'd run into so much hostility, self-righteousness, and general bull-headedness when I'd tried to speak up in the past. It's all essentially sexism, although some women are more likely to be targets of it than others.

      My real point here is that I agree that people need to start talking more about this stuff; because when I know what I've lived with, as a White, American, woman; I can't imagine who else out there (especially those of groups not seen as as "harmless" as White women are) is living with their own version of this kind of stuff. My apologies for "book-length" comment, but the subject of misjudging (and just judging) others is a "button-pusher" for me. I really don't mean to "make it all about me". It's just that I think, "If it could be this bad for me for all these years, how bad is it for people of other groups/ethnicities, etc.?"

    • noorin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Canada

      @Funom Makama 3 thank you very much for spreading my hubs, highly appreciated :)

      And as much as I like to think I have reached the peak of anti-racism, I must admit that I still have a lot to learn and to open my mind to to make sure that with the means I help eradicate racism.

      And being the optimist that I am, I like to think that more and more people from all parts of the world are working on the eradication of racism and discrimination. Either through awareness campaigns or legislative actions, baby steps are taken everywhere. And as tiny as they may be, they are still a step forwards :)

      And Im glad I ran into your hubs as well. Will be reading more of them in the days to come.

    • Funom Makama 3 profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 

      6 years ago from Europe

      There is virtually nothing we can do... The best we can do is to enlighten them any time we happen to be in such situations.... I have shared some of your works on my facebook page and I hope you continue writing such enlighten works...

      Its nice I found you here.

    • noorin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Canada

      @Funom Makama 3 thank you very much, your comment just made my weekend :) Unfortunately I can't even say that Im surprised by the comments you received or continue to receive in Ukraine. Just how Media continuously exoticize African and even Arab women, models in particular by shooting their pics nearby lions/ snakes ...etc tells me some sort of weird stereotype is out there.

      And I couldn't agree more, flipping it the other way around would also show that media portrays stereotypes about the West elsewhere.

      I remember using this same analogy with quite a few when they made the assumption that my dress code i.e. the hijab is out of oppression. I remember telling a classmate that many of the women in the Middle East can't help but feel sorry for women here and she seemed puzzled just like the people in the train were puzzled. So I explained that many of my family members have the assumption that women in the West are more likely to get raped especially through date rape, that women in the West are more likely to be objectified, and more likely to fall for cosmetic surgeries. And the only reason they believe so is because of what media has to repeatedly portray.

      She nodded but then went to explain how the stories she heard about women in the Middle East are not always from media and that some of them were first-hand experience. I asked her to elaborate only to find that she herself has traveled around and met a couple of abusive husbands who happened to be Middle Eastern. Her analysis was too flawed to even comprehend. I imagined if I were to apply the same narrow perspective when narrating my experience in Canada to my family back home. There is so much positive in Canada, I don't even know where to being but if I were to go back home and just narrate the negative incidents without putting them into context, I will help reinforce the stereotypes people see in media. For instance, I can simply testify that too many women here are indeed prey of date rape or that media continuously objectifies women. Without putting things into context, people who have never been here might take my narrations at face value and forget that rape isn't foreign to any culture. Just because it takes a different form here, doesn't mean it doesn't happen back home.

      Similarly my classmate chose to ignore that domestic abuse isn't foreign to any culture and that even in the most developed countries women still fall prey to domestic violence. She came across a few Middle Eastern men who happened to be abusive, coupled that fact with the stereotypes she already has from media and concluded that all women from the Middle East are indeed oppressed including me even though I live here by myself, been supported by my family to come here and have no parental or patriarchal supervision whatsoever.

      Finally, enough about my stories :P Please do come by :) Your comments are enlightening too say the least.

    • Funom Makama 3 profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 

      6 years ago from Europe

      Where did you come from? Heaven? I can spend all week on your hubs... This is indeed excellent. Arabs/Africans face this alot. I live in Ukraine and they always ask if I wake up with the Lion by my side. I wanted to buy some shoes in early 2009 and the seller was speaking to his neighbouring seller telling her with assurance that we do not have shoes in Africa. I got fed up one day and in the train when I was going to another city, the old people around me where busy asking funny questions like, are there roads, trains, schools in Africa? What do we eat? Millepede? I asked why all the questions and they said, it's because they watch it on TV...

      Then I told them, My Mum calls me once in two days to ask if anyone has beaten me and my friends call me almost on weekly basis to ask the number of Ukrainian girls I have slept with... The old people became so furious and ask, why all that and then I replied, because that is what the western media portray people from eastern Europe, that they are racist and beat foreigners alot and also that their girls are prostitute accumulating in western Europe and America as sex hookers...

      In anger one of the women said, that is not entirely true, there are nice people here and our girls are decent. So also, I replied, same with Africa. If we have no houses, how did I get a plane to fly over to Ukraine? Do you expect me to swim through the oceans? I am as terrified to the Lion as you are. We only see them in the Zoo. We have urban areas as well and what sells about Africa is poverty and war and that is why the western media will never stop portraying africa like that. With this reasoning, they understood my own point of view...

      Passing judgement is very very bad because we only place the people we judge in a shallow level. This is really an excellent piece and coming from the Arab world, I perfectly understand what you face. Humanity is a phenomenon of complexity and we really are not helping matters in its complex nature.

      Nice work noorin. I am really getting attached to your works now..

    • noorin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Canada

      @Arafat, thanks, I appreciate your comment ! Tell me about Fox news, they have mastered manipulating news, I personally can't hear Fox & Palestine in 1 sentence without getting flash backs of disturbing bias !!!

      I agree, there is not such thing as 100% neutral, its against our human nature & that's why I stress on the fact that I ain't asking people 2 treat me as a race-less individual ! Perhaps this is why its such a thin line!!!

      Jazak Allah khair on actually reminding yourself of that Ayah, how often do people recite it yet when it comes to the real tests, rarely do we apply it !

      It would be an ideal world if such a society existed. Though to be honest, I can barely vision a society that somehow values "7osn Althan" but unfortunately I can't even imagine one that would apply it pervasively... Simply because if the prophet's society was not pious enough to spare the Mother of the Believers, Aisha, from such abuse, I doubt that other societies would !!!

      Your comments add life to these hubs so keep on stepping by :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A great piece. I can totally relate to the contents. As a Muslim Arab living in a western society for almost a decade, misjudgment & misconception is something I've constantly faced every time I mention my race or religion! Nothing has ever been against me personally, but to some extent the group I'm associated with (i.e muslims/arabs) thanks to Western media, particularly Fox news for creating that misconception in the minds of millions. Having said that, I strongly believe that it all starts with individuals. I've never come across a person who's being 100% neutral in looking at things to be totally honest. I can't even credit myself to have that neutrality even though I try to give people the benefit of the doubt most of the time. However, we all have allowed a room, even tiny, for judging others. As a muslim, I strongly admire what Allah has said in the Quran "O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin" [49:12]. I try to remind myself of this great principle every time that room for judging others take place within my heart and it has never failed me! Imagine a society implementing this great principle! Most of our problems will not arise to begin with for they are not out of differences but rather misunderstanding resulting from misjudgment!

    • noorin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      I am glad u guys liked it :) I like the jail analysis.

    • gulnazahmad profile image


      7 years ago from Pakistan

      Inspiring hub I really enjoyed it.

    • Nature_Boy profile image


      7 years ago

      Actually, I really liked reading your inspiring words, I like the way you are thinking, its really feeding my mind.

      I totally agree with you when you say '' we judge others -be it family, friends, celebrities, politicians, and even nations- using our perspectives, our senses and most of all our code of ethics "

      AND I think it is wise to leave some Hanging matters as they are, just like what you said paint red lines when we are about to judge others .

      For me the situation is as below:

      1 - The person that we are judging is like an accused person in a cage.

      2 - We are playing the judge role.

      3- Motivation, personalities, intentions, experience and the surrounding atmosphere all are like a jury in the court.

      4 - Someone missing! That is the advocate lawyer.

      5 - the accused has the right to defend himself.

      Without numbers 4 & 5 the judgments is considered to be far to be fair;

      Form my point of view, I think for individuals it’s so easy and fast to judge others while the problem is that this judgement may last forever

      as a first impression (it’s like an eternal Judgment) although that those individuals or groups of course may change with time

      If we had to judge someone, we should take some points into considerations, those are:

      - We should grantee that our judgement is totally fair.

      - We have to respect other’s opinions and goals.

      - Human being always makes mistakes, and God is the only one who is perfect.

      - Thinking well of others and not to focus on their negative aspects, here the difficult equation show up.


      "Part of the perfection of someone\'s Islam is his leaving alone that which does not concern him.\" Hadith hasan - Recorded by Tirmidhi]

      especially as you said “when their actions are far from being destructive or catastrophic.”

      I am looking forward to read more great and inspiring hubs.

      Kind Regards;

    • noorin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      Im glad u did =)

    • handyman22 profile image


      7 years ago from Altamonte Springs, Florida

      I enjoyed the aSome good points.rticle.


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