Sometimes I take a Judgment City Tour. Like, have you ever been at Walmart, or Target (if you are an anti-Walmart person) or perhaps just the mall and you see some mom yelling at her kid, dropping f-bombs with greater frequency than a porn flick, and immediately found yourself making gross assumptions about this stranger? Or been walking down the street and seen the person ten feet in front of you drop their candy wrapper on the ground as if the sidewalks were self-cleaning? Don’t you immediately slip into judgment? Don’t you find yourself thinking that this individual is somehow defective? Raised in a barn? Had drug-addict parents who never bothered to teach manners, or common courtesy, or respect?
I do. I mean, not all the time because, intellectually at least, I know better, but there is still a part of me that make unflattering assumptions that may or may not be anywhere close to the mark. Because even though I know that the mom swearing profusely at her 5-year old did not wake up that morning and set an intention to be an asshole, some part of me (the ego, judgmental part) still jumps to the conclusions that paint the bitch as less-than human. Some part of me still denies I could be or have ever been that way. Some part of me wants to park my ass in Superior-ville and act like I’m above all that.
But here’s the thing: I do not know what anything is for.
Okay, I know you are sick of hearing it; I say it all the time, but the reason I do is that I am trying to remember to stay in compassion. I am trying to remember to teach only love. I am trying to remember to choose peace as my goal.
And I can’t do any of that if I forget we are all connected.
Why is it that if some stranger is screaming at her 5-year old she’s a bad mom, but if you or I do it is because our boss just cut all our hours and we don’t know how we’re going to make the rent. Or that bastard ex hasn’t sent the child-support check in three months, and why are you the one stuck with the kids when having rug-rats was that assholes idea, not yours! Or you’ve been asking nicely all day and the little brat doesn’t seem to want to listen to a thing you say until you’ve lost your temper (that was me, FYI).
In other words, it’s justifiable.
For ourselves, we have a reason. Circumstance has used up all our patience and if we don’t start screaming then the actions we’d be led to could have serious consequences that might land us on the evening news or in jail or famous for all the wrong reasons.
For other people, particularly people we don’t know, the bitchy, judgy, gossipy part of our personalities rears its ugly head and acts like we are none of that.
Here’s what I know.
Nothing. (But, I still like to make shit up, so bear with me.)
I know I’m accountable to myself and that other people get to be accountable to themselves for their actions. It’s not my place to tell other people how to be. Sure dropping f-bombs around our children is probably not the best way to teach them to be respectful and polite, but watch cable TV (or rent the stuff on Netflix) – there are so many movies and TV shows where the whole cast needs their mouths washed out with soap that it is no wonder that as a nation, “fuck” seems to be our favorite word. If what we are seeing on TV is serving as our role models, is it any surprise we’ve turned into such a foul-mouthed nation? I know f-bombs spill from my lips dozens of times a day, and I am very capable of carrying on a polite conversation sans la merde.
As a friend of mine told me recently when she was trying to understand why she had such a hard time controlling her mouth, “There’s just no other adjective that’s as good as “fucking.”
Here’s what I like to think I know: compassion happens when I look past the behavior to see the person behind it. We’ve all had our moments of crazy. We’ve all had times when if someone had video-taped us and splattered that little gem on YouTube, we would be mortified.
It’s not that I don’t think we should model better ways of being. Sometimes people don’t have a good role model so they don’t know there are other options. I once stopped my father as he was screaming at my then five-year old about how stupid he was (IQ 146 – not a stupid kid). “Please do not speak to my child that way,” I instructed my father. I’m sure that’s how my father was raised: people that incite frustration and anger receive a tongue lashing.
I think about the quote about Hitler’s Germany:
“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade-unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade-unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.” Attributed to Rev. Martin Niemoller
So while I think it’s important to allow people to be on the path they are on, I also think that it’s important to speak up for those who cannot defend themselves. My five-year old is now 36; at this point I don’t really need to intervene for him; but he needed me when he was five. He needed someone to let him know that it’s not okay to tolerate abuse; someone needs to speak up. But that doesn’t make the abuser a bad person. It makes him someone who doesn’t know any better. It makes him someone whose skillset is missing a better tool. It makes him someone who hasn’t learned not to be hijacked by his temper.
But I can’t teach love if I am busy being judgmental about it. Time to go show some compassion to that Walmart mom to see if that snaps her out of her crazy. (Sometimes I just mentally surround them with white light and love. Just being a loving presence helps.) Time to try a little tenderness.
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.