As humans, judging others is natural. It is something that we all do. What I have found by taking a step back in life is that I am quite quick to judge. Here is how I am trying to change that:
If you know me well, you probably wouldn’t call me sympathetic. I believe that good things come to good people and you have to lie in the bed you make. I also believe in Bootstrap Ideology: when life gets tough, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and change your life for the better. This thought process doesn’t leave a lot of room for sympathy. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t help a lost child or a injured woman, but I found that I easily wrote people off.
For example, when passing a homeless person, I would shrug off their plea for help, mind set on the fact that they put themselves in that position. Mind set on the fact that if they had worked harder, tried harder, then they wouldn’t be homeless. I had predetermined in my mind that if I gave this homeless person $5 dollars, they would spend it on drugs or alcohol instead of on food.
Who am I to make that judgement? Who am I to have that insight? Who made me Queen?
What I am realizing now is that everyone truly does have a story to tell. I would hate if someone wrote me off as a loser, slacker, or freeloader once they heard that I am unemployed and living with my parents. My situation is so much more than that. And if they would just hear me out, I feel confident that I could convince them of my societal worth.
It is so easy to judge, and so much harder to take the time to understand. Unfortunately, we are quick to judge and it is easy for us as humans to believe that what we see in one moment – one part of someone’s entire life – is the whole story. (For those other psych nerds out there like me, Fundamental Attribution Error!).
Meet Reggie. He is a homeless man in Sacramento, CA and I passed by him often on the streets during the 5 years I lived in Sacramento. I never talked to him and I never helped him. It wasn’t until I saw this video that I realized he is a person and has lived an entire life before he became homeless (stop here and watch it, seriously). Pretty crappy that I needed a video to show me that the person on the side of the freeway with a cardboard sign is a human being who has been thrown curve balls like the rest of us. But at least I realize this now. We all make mistakes, we have all been in low places, and we are all trying to better ourselves.
So now that I am in this new place in life and have no right to pass judgements (I’m unemployed and live with M+D, I don’t get to judge anyone), I am making conscious decision to learn people’s stories.
Here are a few examples I have recently found that demonstrate this:
- An older cashier – it is easy to look at her and think, “Is this really all she amounted to, a cashier?” I mean, I was a cashier at 19 and quickly promoted out of that position. But when I engaged her in conversation (having worked 4 years in retail myself) I found that she is a recent widow. That she hadn’t worked in over 40 years and then her husband passed away. And this amazing woman pulled herself up by her bootstraps and rejoined the workforce after so many years outside of that life. What an inspiring show of her strength of character. Change is hard, and instead of shutting down when her world changed, she adapted. I applaud her.
- An Uber driver – it is easy to think the person chauffeuring you around doesn’t have anything to add to your life, but you might find by asking a few simple questions that he has the same life goals as you and might have some advice to offer. A recent Uber driver of mine previously owned a telecommunications business but sold it to spend more time doing what makes him happy – being with his family. He drives for Uber because he wants young adults, like his son, to be able to go out and enjoy nightlife safely. He also is very involved in volunteering for his local school district. What a selfless person and how lucky was I to be in the same car as him. For him, working for Uber is choosing happiness, which is what we are all searching for.
If I am being completely honest, this post is hard to write. It is hard to talk about our flaws, but without doing so, we will never have the chance to better ourselves. I can be uptight, insensitive and judgmental. But I don’t what to be these things. I want to continue to change for the better.
In the spirit of the holidays, I am going to give out slack. If someone cuts me off while driving, I’ll shrug my shoulders, not speed up, cut them off, and flip them off. If a friend flakes on our plans, I’ll take it as an opportunity to find a different adventure, instead of writing him or her off as a bad friend. If I still don’t know what I want to do with my life 3 months from now, I’ll cut myself some slack, because I will get there eventually. I will give people slack. I will dole it out like I am freakin’ Santa on Christmas Day. We all need it from time to time. And we all deserve it.
Ask questions, and listen without judgement. After all, who made you Queen?
Who are some people in your life that deserve some slack? How are you working to be less judgmental? Let me know.