Hello friends, welcome to November! A few weeks ago I went in to Favor the Kind (a boutique in the Heights) to buy my friend a birthday gift. I had Lucas with me because he insisted he wanted to go with mommy, and I agreed against my better judgement because I just couldn’t say no to his sweet little plea. As soon as we walked into the store I remembered why I hadn’t wanted to bring him along – total (mini) bull in a china shop! As I tried to maneuver finding the gift while following him around the store putting things back on the shelves, I caught the evil eye from the woman at the front desk. Embarrassed, I tried to be more firm in my request for him to stop touching things, which actually called more unwanted attention to my failed attempts at disciplining. Finally, I decided the best option was to sit Lucas down and give him my phone while I finished shopping. As I did this, I saw the disapproving look from a woman browsing cards near me (she’d probably NEVER resort to screen time to settle down her kids!) I left the store feeling both ashamed and angry – how dare they judge me?
As I drove home, I thought about a saying my parents often quote:“no escupas al cielo” (don’t spit up at the sky.) Yup, I have been on the judging side of similar situations more than once in my life, and the spit’s always landed right back on me. I judged women who uprooted their lives to follow a man… until I fell in love with Dave and moved to Houston to be with him. I judged people who owned guns…until I moved to Texas and met plenty of lovely, kind, and wonderful people who do. Oh, and I definitely judged parents who brought their spirited little kids to beautiful stores meant for adults… until I was “that mom”.
The definition of judgement is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. We need this skill in order to get through life or we wouldn’t be able to pick a shirt to wear in the morning, select a college major, or decide whom to spend the rest of our lives with. The problem with judgement, however, is that it typically assumes that if something/someone is inferior in one dimension, it/they are inferior on other dimensions as well. I’m sure the women in the boutique thought I was a bad parent based on what they saw even though it was a 5 min out-of-context snapshot of how I am as a mom. Unfortunately, most of us stop looking any further once we make a judgment. We isolate ourselves in a little bubble of rightness and totally miss out on truly engaging with each other, exploring new ideas, or learning from experiences outside of our normal.
“When we continue choosing between right or wrong, we spend our energy sorting life instead of living it.” – Mark Nepo
Merriam-Webster may disagree with me, but I think the opposite of judgement is compassion. The “com” in compassion is a prefix meaning “with,” “together,” “in association.” Unlike judgement, compassion stems from the shared understanding that at some point in our lives, we are all “those people.” When we’re judgmental, we turn away from each other, point the finger, and close ourselves off to deeper connection. On the contrary, when we’re compassionate, we can be discerning without being self-righteous, we can be supportive without being condescending, and we can focus on who a person is instead of what a person is.
This month, I encourage you to let go of judgment and practice compassion ( I know – not easy!) Give someone a second chance at a first impression. Offer the coworker who was short with you in the morning a hug. Assume the person who cut you off in traffic was in a bigger hurry than you were and wish them well. Give the disheveled-looking woman in line at the grocery store a comforting smile that says “I’ve had those kind of days too”. Learn from the person with wildly different political views instead of dismissing their ideas (and them) off as crazy. And if you see a mom struggling to manage her two and a half year old in a nice store, please, please give her a high five and tell her she’s doing a really great job:)