Un-Judge Someone – Financially Speaking

I recently attended the “Un-judge Someone” event sponsored by The Human Library organization and the Carbondale Library.  It was a great opportunity to connect with people outside of my normal circles. It got me to thinking about how, in a world that equates success with financial wealth, the temptation to judge people based on their net worth can be pervasive. It runs the spectrum – people are judged because they have financial means, or they lack them.

It’s essential to recognize that a person’s value extends far beyond the digits in their bank account, the size of their home, their work status, or their appearance.  Many times, it is covert.  We don’t like to think of ourselves as judgmental, yet we all do it.  There are dangers and there are ways to shift our perspective.

The Fallacy of Net Worth as a Measure of Character

While financial success can be an indicator of hard work, achievement, and sometimes luck, it does not provide a comprehensive picture of a person’s character. Kindness, empathy, integrity, and other virtues cannot be quantified by one’s net worth. Judging someone solely on their financial status oversimplifies the complex and multifaceted nature of human beings. Sometimes the person we judge most harshly is ourselves.  Your net worth does not define your self-worth.  Money can provide you with choices in life, but it is a poor measure of your value as a friend, family member or community partner.

Hidden Struggles and Challenges

Behind the veneer of financial appurtenances, many individuals face personal challenges and struggles that may not be immediately visible. Mental health issues, family problems, and personal setbacks affect people from all walks of life. Many times, the challenges in life are simply exposed when a person doesn’t have the financial means to create the facade.  Judging based on net worth ignores these human struggles and perpetuates a shallow understanding of an individual’s journey.

Success Takes Many Forms

Success is a subjective concept and can take various forms beyond financial achievement. Personal growth, dignified work, meaningful relationships, passionate pursuits, and community contributions are all valid measures of success. By focusing solely on net worth, we risk overlooking the richness of a person’s life experiences and their unique contributions to the world.

The Impact of Financial Judgment on Mental Health

We continue to face a mental health crisis in our community and around our country. Mental health is not a “lack of money” issue. When we judge others or feel personally judged based on financial circumstances, we face profound implications. Individuals experience heightened stress and anxiety. The pressure to conform to societal expectations is detrimental to mental well-being. As individuals feel compelled to maintain a guise of financial success, there is a financial burden and authentic relationships are compromised.  A quote attributed to many is “We buy things we don’t need; with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”.  Judging others based on their net worth or appearance of net worth can strain relationships and create division.  Fifty percent of divorce is attributable to money issues – many times fraught with judgement on financial identity and decisions. Friendships, family ties, and professional connections should be built on trust, understanding, and shared values rather than financial status. Allowing financial standing to taint our views on people undermines the essence of meaningful connections.

More Compassion across the wealth spectrum

Practice Empathy

When we share our stories, we create connections. We cultivate empathy by acknowledging that everyone has their unique challenges and triumphs with money. One way to do this is to create safe and brave spaces to have financial conversations across the demographic, socio-political, age, gender and other divides.   What I have found in facilitating these sessions, listening to  stories and sharing my own, is that we have more in common than not. Lynne Twist shares “Our greatest wealth is in our ability to share and connect with others.”

Celebrate Diversity of Success

Embrace that success means different things to people. People are gifted in a myriad of ways and if people are living in their gifting, they will contribute to a better world. Recognize and celebrate the achievements that go beyond monetary wealth, acknowledging the value of personal growth, the dignity in a hard day’s work, community contributions, and the pursuit of excellence (not perfection).

We all judge. It is part of being human.  It serves us well when we discern driving in winter weather, or what daily risks we are willing to take.  However, when it presents through a financial lens, we fail to see and experience the richness of human experience. It’s crucial to shift our focus from financial metrics to a more holistic understanding of individuals, valuing their character, unique journeys, and contributions to society. By embracing empathy, cultivating rich conversations and celebrating diverse forms of success, we can foster mental wellness, fiscal health and a more compassionate and inclusive world.

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