My Life with God

A Judge’s Instructions for Us All

Did you hear or read the judge’s instructions to the jury upon deliberation in the Chauvin trial?

One, take the time you need to reflect carefully and thoughtfully about the evidence.

Two, think about why you are making the decision your making and examine it for bias and reconsider your first impressions of the people and the evidence in this case and if the people involved in this case were from different backgrounds, for example, richer or poorer, more less educated, older or younger or of a different gender, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation, would you still view them any evidence the same way? 

Three, listen to one another. You must carefully evaluate the evidence and resist to help each other resist any urged to reach a verdict imposed by biased for or against any party or witness. Each of you have different backgrounds and we will be feeling this case and light of your own insights, assumptions and biases. Listening to different perspectives may help you to better identify the possible effects these hidden biases.

Four, resist jumping to conclusions based on personal likes or dislikes. Generalizations, gut feelings, prejudices, sympathies, stereotypes or unconscious biases.

You might have read the first line of this post or any portion of the quote and had an immediate response. You might want to vent, discuss, argue, or dismiss. If that’s the case, I encourage you to continue to read, because we can all learn from these suggestions.

The specific instructions have to do with the justice system. It’s a huge decision and responsibility. Some of the daily decisions we need to make are not nearly as weighty, but I think some of the same principles serve us well.

Take your time. I know some decisions need to be made quickly, but many do not. We don’t want to get bogged down in a quagmire of indecision, but we need to take the appropriate time for the decisions we face—and I’m not talking about what we might consider biggies like buying a house, getting married, or changing jobs. How to respond, engage, and schedule, when to confront, forgive, and set boundaries, how to respect, learn, and grow are all important decisions that require discernment.

Be aware of your why. Know your biases. We all have them. Instead of using them as justification, consider them as tools that can be used well or poorly. As we learn to step into different perspectives, we don’t completely eclipse our individuality. We keep our identity in a context that reveals areas in which to stand firm and areas in which to grow.

Listen to one another. Can I get an amen? And we don’t simply listen in stillness in order to let someone else speak and process, but we invite accountability to respectfully ask questions and point out inconsistencies and assumptions. We like to invite accountability when it means we get to hold someone else accountable. We don’t like it as much when someone else holds us accountable and asks us tough questions.

Resist jumping to conclusions. Social media and so many areas of our lives are built around our likes and dislikes. The item in the list of cautions that stands out to me is gut feelings. I remember when it was popular to say, “What’s your gut say?” Maybe now we say, “What’s your heart say?” That might work at times, but our hearts can be misguided. We need a more trustworthy source of wisdom than our hearts or feelings.

Also, the last directive doesn’t say we shouldn’t make conclusions. Like any decision we make, we must reach a conclusion. But there’s a difference between jumping to a conclusion and reaching a conclusion. One risks skipping over some important steps. The other plods along with more awareness.

Every one of us can consider applying every one of these steps as we discern the next decisions we make.

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