We are in the middle of shifting societal norms. It’s not entirely clear how we ought to behave in public. It’s not entirely clear what the responsible thing to do is. The grocery store, the great outdoors, apartment hallways — all of these places have become a battleground of clashing judgements.
People who think we should be more aggressively social distancing and staying indoors are judging people who are going outside regularly in urban areas. They might also be judging people who don’t wear a mask when they do go outside. They’re also definitely judging people who get within their 6-ft radius and act as if this basic element of social distancing doesn’t matter.
On the flip side, there are people who are judging others for being too paranoid, or overly precautious, or elitist. These people might also be judging the people who are judging them for being too judgemental.
Either way, there is a lot of judgement going around.
The dirty looks go both ways when one person is wearing a mask and the other person isn’t.
As I wrote in a previous piece, we have more room to express what we feel to the people who are closest to us, than we do with strangers. With strangers, unless they’re getting into our personal space, it’s a lot more uncomfortable to address behaviour that we think is wrong. Even if we did express our thoughts to strangers, it’s likely they would dismiss us.
But with friends, there’s some potential that expressing our judgement could have a positive effect.
If we are going to be critical of a friend, though, we should be careful to only criticize specific actions and beliefs. If we’re not careful we can slip into criticizing the person’s identity. Criticizing someone’s identity is a painful experience for all involved. We’re also less likely to create room for dialogue and change if we accidentally criticize who someone is as a person. So, we should focus on behaviours and beliefs, not on identities.
We have to avoid making someone feel like they’re a bad person for not have the same moral intuitions as we have. They’re not. We’ve just reached different conclusions on certain aspects of what to do, so far.
PS. We might be wrong, too. If we are, we can only hope that our friends will focus on our behaviour, and leave be our identity.