I've said this many a time before, but it holds true: you don't know what it's truly like in someone else's shoes. Everyone has their own battles and circumstances. It's much easier to impose your advice and opinion on things when you're looking at something through a window- it's much harder to live it on the other side and things are always more complicated than they may seem. Just because you've been through the woods doesn't mean you know another's journey through them.
With all these recent horrific events going on around the world, people are so eager to jump into the discussion. And that's great that people are feeling a sense of connection, an urge to help somehow, to figure out reasoning why. But it then turns nasty and judgmental in the blink of an eye.
Listen before you speak. Consider things from all angles. And most of all, don't be so presumptuous and feel that you have the privilege to understand exactly what is happening.
More than ever have I recently really learned in my own life that you have no idea what is going on behind closed doors.
Sure, I get that people mean well sometimes when they want to chime in with their own similar story of how they understand. It's a feeling of wanting to related. But when someone says how they were in a similar situation but managed to be "better," that's when judgment comes in. And I myself have been guilty of this.
Before you judge that pregnant woman for chowing down on fast food, know that you have no idea if that's the only thing she's managing to keep down. Before you judge the fighting couple in public, know that you have no idea that it could be the worst day in their lives. Before you judge the overweight man for eating dessert, know that he might have put more work in the gym than you have last week. Before you judge your friend for staying in a seemingly unhealthy relationship, know that you have no idea what it's really like. Before you judge that girl with disheveled appearance, know that just getting up out of bed with her depression was a win for her today. Before you judge that mom who can't quiet her screaming child, know that she might be a single mom at her wit's end doing her best. And so forth.
This post was inspired by Brandon's (of Humans of New York- by the way if you don't know what this is, do your heart a favor and FOLLOW) comment on the last installment of a recent post, profiling this man who had lost his family:
"When presented with a complex story, where things aren’t always black and white, and circumstances can be as much to blame as choices-- consider withholding judgment. This doesn’t mean you are condoning or validating a person’s choices. There can be a middle ground between ‘giving support’ and ‘casting judgment.’ You can always just listen. I say this because as the stories have become more detailed in recent months, it seems that the comment section has grown more judgmental. It’s perfectly valid to have strong feelings and opinions. And I certainly don’t want to suppress free speech. But remember that people choose to share their stories here. And they can just as easily choose not to. Extreme judgment stifles communication and discourages honesty. This holds true for relationships, households, and communities. Let’s not make this a community where honesty and self-reflection are punished with rebuke. Because without honesty, these stories will lose their power."
I love that line. Extreme judgment stifles communication and discourages honesty. Something I am striving to put into practice even more, as communication and honesty should be encouraged above all- because that is what is real.