Discerning vs. Snobbish

A week or so ago, an interaction I had with a friend got me to thinking about the important difference between being discerning and being a snob. And there is a difference.

Here’s how the basic interaction went down:

Me (responding to a different friend who was making communal pots of tea, who asked what kind of tea I like to drink): Well, I drink mostly green tea, but no need to make any just for me, I brought my own.

Friend (standing nearby in ear shot): You brought you own huh?

Me: Yeah, I found this great loose leaf green tea online that I order from Ten Tea and I really like it. So I decided to bring it along with me today.

Friend (playfully stated): Oh, so you’re a tea snob?

Me: Well, no. I would say that I am discerning.

Friend (again, playfully stated): Oh, is that how you rationalize it?

Me: Well, no. I don’t think being discerning and being a snob are the same thing.

Words matter. And the words ‘discerning’ and ‘snob’ are not synonymous or interchangeable. It’s not the action that matters nearly as much as the motivation and energy behind it. It’s not the what, it’s the why.

On dictionary.com, it defines the word ‘discerning’ as: showing good or outstanding judgment and understanding. And it defines the word ‘snob’ as: a person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.

Nope. Definitely not the same thing.

Let’s unpack this a little bit more.

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Judging a Book by its Cover

bookbyitscover

Lately I’ve been thinking about the propensity we have to judge a book by its cover.  I would venture to say that all of us do it to some extent.  And while we don’t appreciate when we ourselves are judged unfairly we tend to naturally get caught up in the cycle of judging others just the same.  An over occupation with how others see us (self-conciousness) is a direct result of how our own inner critic is forever comparing ourselves against everyone else.  How we see and treat ourselves often translates to how we see and treat others.

It’s a somewhat natural process to judge someone by the way they look and behave and it’s not always a bad thing.  At times our instincts may even be correct.  However, a majority of the time we have little or no idea who someone else is simply by seeing, meeting, or even spending time with them.

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