I wanted to take advantage of the warmer weather today by going for a run. But I could not escape myself, so I cancelled the run. The exercise would do me good. But I can lose a ton of weight by simply saying a few things right here, right now.
These thoughts seem random, but they intersect in my mind. I cannot believe I am the first to think them. There is something ridiculous about these ideas. When I say them, I can hear that they are false, or partial truth at best–inadequate to tell the whole story. Yet I feel trapped behind this wall of preconceived notion, mine and yours.
The part that bothers me most about these false or misleading statements is that a large amount of the intercourse I have with people is based on accepting lies as a premise for judgement.
They Must Have Done Something to Deserve It
Life is made up of thousands of decisions, made moment to moment, day by day. Decisions taken in a moment impact the rest of our lives, and often the lives of others. In just such a way, my life was originally determined by others; then I passed the favor to those under my control.
Someone stole my innocence as a child. I developed protective behavior to minimize the confusion, keep the pain under cover. Other events created an understanding of the world as an unsafe place. From that perspective, I made choices that resulted in a disconnection that felt safer than being vulnerable. It forged armor that, while safeguarding me, also separated me from the very people I needed in my life.
The armor got heavy with time; it didn’t really grant me safety either. Vulnerable to pain, I became more tough; if I was hurt, I could hide it from everyone.
Judgement was harsh.
Labels, messages about my value, the disappointment I caused others, the potential I wasn’t reaching. I was called a rebel, a ‘product of divorce,’ a bad influence, a delinquent.
We choose the best we know how, but there are always unintended consequences, results we could not have foreseen. I thought if I behaved a certain way, I would achieve a specific result–I was wrong. The most fortunate of us have sorrow; the least prepared experience joy. Why, then, is it so easy to judge critically? To think they must have done “it” to themselves?
There are the so-called random slices of life, the unchosen losses and unexpected windfalls. We are all such a mixture of outlook, behavior and attitude. But…we are all doing the very best we know how at any given moment.
They Have It Made–Must Be Nice
Here is the other side of the coin; the people who are well off. We cannot see into their lives. We don’t know how hard they worked for what they have. We have no clue what they sacrificed as they chose. As far as we can see they have no problems, no pain.
Anyone who thinks about it for a moment will probably admit that “rich” folk have problems, too. But we figure pain hurts less if there is a cushion of physical comfort. We may think that if they appear spiritually poor, shallow or empty that they deserve it for having made choices that made them richer.
Those with more material possessions have made the same types of choices, suffered the same unintended consequences, and lived through similar strokes of fate.
They likely hide their hurt, just as I hide mine. We seem universally stricken with intense discomfort when faced with someone else’s pain. In fact, most people may not even think of it as pain, it’s just part of life. People look away if someone trips and falls, under the guise of protecting the injured person’s pride. And if I fell, I might hope nobody saw.
More Critical Judgement
My lack of sympathy is astounding. Someone who treated me less than courteously has a fender-bender in the parking lot…serves them right, I think. I immediately repent, hoping no one heard my thoughts, though I know it’s too late.
Why, I whine, can’t we all just get along?
Oh, yeah, because we all see in each other that which we cannot yet look at in ourselves. Psychology calls it “projection.” The bible calls it the mote in another’s eye, the beam in our own.
So when I think ill of you, I can pretty reliably look at the same trait in myself. Ugh, do I have to?
So, what is the point of this? See, I’ve been talking to myself the whole time. I have muttered about being snidely labelled a Democrat. Complained about the hysterics engendered by this election campaign, and its’ results. I have rolled my eyes at the people who have no hope, and been unwilling to hold space for those who are frightened.
Yet I have been afraid of so little, in a panic about even less, and disgusted by my own despair. It is time to let myself, and everyone else, off the hook. I know less about you than I do about myself, yet I am a mystery to me. How can I judge and criticize you without being more relentless with myself?
My New Job
The new mission is the old mission. To treat others as I wish to be treated; to be kind to myself and everyone else. To know without details that we all have pain and sorrow. As someone I spoke with recently said, Our job is the same as it has always been–the same the day before as the day after.
Why, yes, it is; thanks for the reminder!
How about you? Can you see a homeless person without thinking they deserve it? Forgive a harried parent for being impatient? Give a genuine smile to that sober-faced shopper? Or think in kindly terms about that driver who cut you off in traffic?
Or even more: can you give without counting the cost? Without a tax receipt? Help that impatient parent by lending a hand? Greet that downcast person with a smile? Let someone have your place in line?
I’m going to try. We may never know the story behind who they are, but we can be sure they have one.
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