Yesterday I read an amazing post from the blog Blessed with a Star on the Forehead. It was entitled Why am I judging? … am I perfect? It is a searching, honest account of recent times where she has found herself judging others. She went through 5 cases in detail, and I could relate to all of them. In fact, it made me do my own self-reflection. I replied to her post with an epic comment that she suggested could be a post in itself. She is right. I think this topic requires further delving-into, and I want to share my thought-process with all of you.
Photo Credit – (c) RoniLoren
I, too, can be judgemental at times. I am guilty of thinking there is just one way – my way – of doing things. Her stories yesterday reminded me of a recent circumstance in my family. I have a sister-in-law who is in a lot of financial trouble right now. She had an excellent, well-paying job for over 20 years with a financial institution. She was let go due to a fairly complicated set of circumstances. The simplified version is that she was transferred to a new division with a supervisor who didn’t like her because she wasn’t part of the “clique.” You know, that group of office gossips who can’t eat their lunches alone, MUST talk about what happened to who on the Bachelorette or The Real Housewives, and stay out drinking at the bars after work. That supervisor changed some rules, thrust my sister-in-law into a position she had no experience with, and hounded her every second of the day until her numbers were down and there was enough “reason” to justify “laying her off.”
My sister-in-law, let’s call her Susan from this point forward for simplicity-sake, was out of work for over a year. Most of that time she was able to get unemployment due to all of the extensions. I don’t know where she was looking for a new job or what kind of effort she was making during that time. I do know, however, that she took in two of her sister’s sons (that’s an entirely different story), one son’s wife, and their infant daughter. One of them was in school (the youngest), and the other is an ex-felon loser. None of them had jobs. She was the only one getting any income, and she was paying all of the bills. A few months ago her final unemployment extension expired, and she was in the position of almost losing her home.
At that point Susan reached out and asked for help to pay her back rent and keep from getting kicked out. Everyone in the family (all 7 of her brothers and sisters) refused. They all said she should have done this better or that better. That she should have gotten a job sooner. That she shouldn’t have let the worthless felon nephew and his wife and child move in. That she would have to find her own way out of the mess. At first I had the same thoughts – “Why wasn’t she saving her money before she lost her job? What did she do with all her unemployment in those months she was getting it? The nephew and his wife at least got food stamps. I could budget to get by with the amount they got. How could she be so far behind?”
Then I got disgusted with myself. Sure, I have money saved up that could last me a while, but not everyone does. That saved money is a nice security blanket for me, and I wanted to keep it there for me. It was selfish. At the same time, I should be willing to give her something. She’s family. She had made mistakes in the past with bankruptcy and borrowing money that she never paid back. Did that mean she deserved to be out on the street? No. And she wasn’t even asking for that much… just a couple of hundred. Still, I was hesitant to be supporting the loser felon who sat around playing video games and fiddling with Facebook all day. If they wouldn’t get a benefit, it would have been much easier… (more judging).
The whole family is on Facebook, and Susan was making some pleas there and talking about her dire situation. Some of her posts were immature (wow… I’m so judgmental), but it was a way to reach everyone. I started reading the comments and heard her brother talking bad about her on the phone with Mr. Mess. My disgust turned to rage. What bullies! (Here I was judging again.) Mr. Mess couldn’t help in time because he isn’t a saver, and wasn’t getting paid until after she needed the rent. No one else was willing to help out. I extracted myself from the discussion, decided not to worry about anyone else, and GAVE her the money she asked for. I don’t expect it back. Before I decided to give it to her, I told myself that there would be no strings. No conditions. Just support.
Susan now has a new job and things are turning around. She told me last week that money I gave her was literally the only reason she got to stay in her home. The felon nephew and his family moved out within 2 weeks of finally being asked to pull their own weight. They are now mooching off of his wife’s mother. I try so very hard not to judge, but I’m fighting a losing battle there. I offered to pay him for doing work around our house – moving some plants in the flowerbed, painting a few rooms, and some other stuff that needs to be done. He hemmed and hawed for weeks with various excuses about why he couldn’t come out to do anything. After he moved without paying Susan anything for the 2 years he and his family lived there, I rescinded my offer. Each time I find myself actively judging them, I try to just stop. I don’t have to like them or the way they took advantage of Susan, but I can keep my advice and opinions to myself, try to feel a little empathy for a new family with no means of supporting themself, and remember that they are human, too.
The truth is, it feels better NOT to judge others. Being gracious instead of overbearing has a lighter, more positive feel. All of the judging in the world doesn’t really change anyone else. The only person miserable from it is me. Yet judging is a default sometimes. I can find myself judging another person before I’ve really consciously thought about it. How sad. I try to be more aware of it and learn to see the good in others. More often than not, I am the most judgemental of myself. I am my harshest critic. Self-criticism is possibly one of the most damaging forms of judgement.
In S-Anon the other day they talked about comparing our insides to other people’s outsides. That really struck home. When we look at someone and think, “They are so happy” or “I wish I looked like her” or “If only I was that put-together my life wouldn’t be so crazy” or whatever other little comparisons we make every day, we are comparing our insides to their outsides. In reality we have no idea if the couple is happy or dealing with a lot of crap. That woman might have been sexually harassed because of her looks or may have a medical condition (like a tall, skinny blogger I know with a lot of back issues who endured countless surgeries and daily pain). People have all sorts of things going on inside that we can’t see or understand, and we shouldn’t judge ourselves against outside appearances. We are seeing inside of ourselves to all of the mess we hide from others and comparing it to another person’s “best face forward.”
When we judge others negatively we are doing the same process in reverse. We are comparing our insides to another person’s outside (“I would never do that”). In reality, we have no idea what other people are going through. We don’t know what has informed their decisions. We don’t know what trauma they have experienced. Sometimes it’s even as simple as the fact that I was taught financial responsibility from my parents and they weren’t. That doesn’t make me better than them. It just makes me luckier. Or possibly just better at that one thing, in that one area. I have realized that everyone has something special to offer. I can learn for anyone that I give the opportunity. All it takes is giving other people a second look, really trying to see them.
I guess that applies to my husband, too. I am working on giving him the benefit of the doubt and realizing that his short-comings are a product of many things. I had a minor trigger this morning, but I’m moving past it. That is about me more than it is about him, so I’m going to keep focusing on making myself better. His birthday yesterday was actually pleasant. I even had two pieces of cake. Diet be damned! 🙂
- Judgemental Folks (ichalkit.wordpress.com)
- Don’t Judge. – Yeah Right. (unheardramblings.wordpress.com)
- Why am I judging? … am I perfect? (blessedwithastarontheforehead.wordpress.com)
- Edwina Currie – a judgemental view on the money worries many people today are facing (cleardebt.co.uk)