I had originally set out to write about how some people write Facebook statuses that really irritate me. It had a really negative tone, but it suddenly evolved into the story below of running into someone I knew in high school. When I went back to reread what I’d written and how cohesive the entire post was, I realized that I had started in a really negative place, and ended up completely inspired. So I decided to tip the scales of good and evil toward good and focus on what is right in the world.
Sometimes, I get comfort from knowing that life is hard for everyone, not just me. It’s not so much that misery loves company, but rather that someone else out there knows what I’m suffering and in turn, when someone comes to me, I can identify with their pain. Sometimes it’s not pain, so much as frustration or anxiety. There are people who are just better at masking it. Me? I call everyone I know and tell them I’m in a deep hole and could they throw me a rope? I have friends willing to do that; and in turn, I’m a friend willing to do that. We can’t just take from this world; we have to give back as well.
Whenever I experience generosity, loving-kindness or empathy, I feel like passing it on. It’s invigorating and it makes my heart grow because I’m sharing a real human experience with another person. I just had the most refreshing experience that gave me the opportunity to be loving and understanding.
I ran into a few friends who were dining with two girls I went to high school with. One girl just had a baby and I was oohing and aahing over him. Some babies are cute, some are okay, some are downright perfect. She had the third kind of baby. She also shared with me that she had moved back to town because the father wasn’t involved and she hadn’t really expected to be in this situation.
What refreshing honesty! What character! I was floored by her humbleness. I’m not sure what her intentions were, but the impression I got was that she wanted to avoid any possible misconceptions about her situation. She had come to terms with it and so she put it out there for the world to judge or accept. She was unpretentious and authentic. I immediately wanted to be around her more. It occurred to me that she might not always be met with positive forces, and having been in that same position, I wanted to physically wrap my arms around her and tell her how impressed I was that she chose to go at parenthood alone regardless of how hard it would be.
It’s a rarity in life that we are afforded such opportunity to be around a person who is so genuine to everyone she meets. When I first walked up, she said she was surprised that I had remembered her. She was two years younger than me in high school and it took me aback at first because the implication was that she viewed me as someone who wouldn’t know her or remember her. I went through a series of thoughts quickly before I awkwardly replied, “Oh, of course I would remember you!” even though I can’t think of any social function we attended together, any activity or group we were both a part of, or many mutual friends we had. I just remember people. When I don’t, it’s very disconcerting.
I feel totally empowered by this chance meeting. It started me thinking about how I can show loving-kindness even when I’m not compelled to do so by another’s actions. There are a number of ways that are simple: smiling at strangers, being grateful when someone helps you even if it’s his or her job, sharing something you have that someone else needs, helping someone clearly in need, speaking a kind word, giving a gentle touch, hugging, acknowledging.
I think what my friend did, which she surely did not realize, was open up a platform where we could look one another straight in the eye and put all of our selves out on the table, free of judgment. Not many people engender this type of clarity and honesty with just a few spoken words. She renewed my desire to be exactly like that. It’s always in the back of my head: be a person people can trust and be a person who other women see as open and honest.
I fail miserably sometimes because I get caught in defending myself against others who I imagine are seeking my harm or because I’ve let negativity permeate into the fabric of my being. When we lash out at someone else in judgment, it’s usually because we’re feeling low about ourselves and need to feel better (although empowering ourselves by stepping on someone else does not have lasting positive effects) or because our judgment is so clouded by self-righteousness that we can’t see past our own feeble and pathetic ideas of our selves.
I want to ask you a few questions and then leave you with a challenge:
What stops you from putting it all out on the table?
What makes you lash out in judgment (or secretly stew in judgment)?
What stops you from stopping your judgmental behavior?
I challenge you to think about the following:
I recognize that not everyone can lay all their insecurities and failures out on display for the world, but have you considered that releasing some of it out into the world instead of holding inside would give you space for calm, and give someone else the opportunity to help you? To be with you? To join you in your struggle? Do you keep it all inside because you think you have an image you need to uphold? Has it occurred to you that others might have already seen through it and are just waiting for you to be you?
Are you judging others secretly or out loud because of some way you feel about yourself? Are you judging others based on a religious or spiritual ideology you hold yourself to? Has it occurred to you that they may not hold themselves to the same ideology and holding them to it is slightly ridiculous? By slightly, I mean completely.
Do you find comfort in judgment? Have you considered helping someone instead of judging them? Have you looked at what judging others is doing to your life? It’s setting you apart and above those you judge. Does that jive with your moral code?
I challenge you to do the following:
When you find yourself judging others, stop the behavior and turn it into something positive. Think about where they are coming from. Ask helping questions. Try to empathize with their positions. Even if you wouldn’t act as they do, be an open door so when they need guidance or just someone to listen, they find you open. I am positive that you will find the experience of an open and honest conversation not only exhilarating by motivating as well.
I challenge you to be open and let go of your pretenses. I challenge you to listen openly. I challenge you to be honest with yourself. I challenge you to let go of the image you need to project and to just be yourself.