Extracted from a commentary entitled "Get happy - get hitched" in the March 28, 2004 issue of The Straits Times:
"...ONE OF THE THINGS I like to tell my younger colleagues or unsuspecting acquaintances is that they should get hitched at the first opportunity which comes along.
"Why? Because getting married is good for you.
"This is not just a crazy conjecture plucked from thin air but said on good scientific authority. According to an article in the British weekly New Scientist last October, researchers found that the most important factor in determining whether a person is happy or not is his or her genes. Heredity scores 10 on a scale of 10 in influencing your chances of seventh heaven. Some people are born happy, with extroverts being the most naturally endowed in the contentment league.
"The American boffins also found that the second most important factor is marital status, scoring 6 on the scale. (The other factors, with their scores, are: Friends 5; Having fewer desires 4; Altruistic behaviour 3; Religion 3; Physical beauty 2; Earn more money 1; Age and maturity 1; Intelligence 0. The study also found Scandinavians the happiest people, and after adjusting for income, the Hispanics. Sadly, East Asians - this means us! - are the least happy.)"
THESE FEW DAYS, "To judge or not to judge?" is a question that comes to mind quite often. Reading the ST commentary last Sunday (see extract above) i couldn't help laughing out loud. This writer had ended his commentary with, "...another study in Britian last year showing that men recover better from 'serial break-ups' while women fare much worse. It may be much better for a woman's mental health to stay single than to have loved and lost, it suggests...." and then a self-contradictory zinger: "...one must always take such studies with a big pinch of salt, mustn't one?"
So, is a study to be trusted or not? What was this columnist thinking when he tried to support an opinion with a study as evidence in the beginning and then negate the same opinion with a contradictory study and a cynical comment at the end?
A friend F. once told me: "To be credible and convincing, a commentary should be balanced. There is a need to consider the evidence and arguments on both sides before presenting one's opinion."
The writer seemed to be doing so, however, in a rather superficial way. Mid-way, he conceded, "Ah, the bright sparks among you will ask: Does marriage make you happy or are happy people simply more likely to get married?" Then he answered using another study, "Both. A study, cited in the same article, of 30,000 Germans over 15 years found that 'happy people are more likely to get married and stay married, but anyone can improve their mood by getting married. Furthermore, people who are less happy to begin with get a bigger boost from marriage.' "
Perhaps if he had interviewed and listened to a few real-life singles, he might find out that "With social pressure and prejudices, as well as continual incentives for married people and disincentives for singles from certain people, it's little wonder that singles can be unhappier sometimes."
In such a case, is the 1 to 2 per cent difference in a person's 'subjective well-being' intrinsic or extrinsic to the marital status? It's time to think again. Little wonder that we are continually told not to judge.
But then, what is one to do when one is a judge like Amy Gray in a Hallmark TV series called Judging Amy, or when one is in a situation where one must judge in order to make the right decision or take the right action (which can be quite often)? Is one to "analyse until paralysed"? Or perhaps the key is "not to judge hastily" and "not to condemn"?
"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." -- Matthew 7:1-2
"Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." -- John 7:24
The meaning of 'judge' according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, c2000:
1. To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration: judge heights; judging character.
a. Law. To hear and decide on in a court of law; try: judge a case.
b. Obsolete. To pass sentence on; condemn.
c. To act as one appointed to decide the winners of: judge an essay contest.
3. To determine or declare after consideration or deliberation.
4. Informal. To have as an opinion or assumption; suppose: I judge you're right.
5. Bible. To govern; rule. Used of an ancient Israelite leader.
1. To form an opinion or evaluation.
2. To act or decide as a judge.
1. One who judges, especially:
a. One who makes estimates as to worth, quality, or fitness: a good judge of used cars; a poor judge of character.
b. Abbr. J. Law. A public official who hears and decides cases brought before a court of law.
c. Law. A bankruptcy referee.
d. One appointed to decide the winners of a contest or competition.
a. A leader of the Israelites during a period of about 400 years between the death of Joshua and the accession of Saul.
b. Judges (used with a sing. verb) Abbr. Judg. or Jgs or Jg See table at Bible.