Change must begin somewhere – let yours start here!
I loved taking drives with my mother at any age because we would always find an ice cream stand. No matter how many years went by her order was always a large vanilla twist and I can’t see one today without thinking of her – I miss you mom.
In her later years she seemed to become more judgmental or perhaps I became more aware of that trait… We would drive by a large estate home being built and she would nonchalantly comment
“They must be drug dealers.”
“What?” I would ask….
“well who else would have that kind of money?” she would respond.
She would see a young mother in a store late at night with a crying baby and comment
“That child should be in bed, people don’t know how to parent anymore.”
My mother was a kind woman actually but she was sometimes very narrow minded and obviously verbal about her assumptions; hence – she was judgmental.
I must have learned to assess my world through her judgments although I don’t recall specific judgments until one day many years ago – a point in time that I will never forget – I passed judgment and was brought to my knees.
I was helping a friend who was moving back into the area by pre-screening homes for she and her husband to see. One of the homes that we stopped to see was vacant and from the listing sheet, had many of the qualities my friend was seeking. The realtor and I walked through the front door into a foyer just off the living room and instantly became aware of how dirty the carpets were; they were not even freshly vaccummed. From there went into the kitchen and found the stove covered in grease, the sink covered in mildew, and the floor (where the refrigerator had been) a different vinyl than the rest of the kitchen. It got worse as we went upstairs as we noticed several holes punched through the drywall and in one bedroom, the woodwork was painted black except where there had been furniture. We could see exactly where the bed, dresser, and nightstand had been located. The house required much more TLC than I knew my friend would want to embark on so we checked it off the list and moved on.
I relayed the condition of the house to my friend and we spent an inappropriate amount of time conjuring a perception of the family that had lived there; ultimately deciding they got evicted for not paying the rent / mortgage and clearly didn’t care or have any respect for their home.
A few days later I was picking up my child at school and began talking with another mom my friend and I knew who also happened to live in the neighborhood where that house was. The friend had heard-through-the-grapevine that I had seen the house (yes it is a SMALL town) and promptly offered the comment:
Isn’t that a sad story?
What was so sad? That house was a disaster!
And then she began ….
A typical middle-class suburban family with three daughters ranging in age from 9 -14, had lived in the home. One week before Thanksgiving, (5 months prior) the mom had been killed in a car accident. It had been a tough holiday season for the dad and kids but they had a lot of local support. The middle of January Dad collapsed at work and was diagnosed with brain cancer; dying just 9 weeks later. Dad’s sister quickly came from out-of-state, collected the girls and moved them. The family had experienced an unspeakable tragedy – they were three heartbroken girls
I instantly recalled the conversation with my friend and the assumptions we had made – the judgments – the mocking and felt sick. I was ashamed of myself, the fact that I hadn’t stopped to consider any other scenario than the one my judgmental mind created. I was heartbroken for the girls – the pain they must have experienced through a holiday season and the double punch loss of their parents. In that moment – I promised myself that I would never judge again; that I would always look for another reason for the behavior, scene, or situation that I experience. When I see a young mother with a crying baby in the grocery store late at night, I ask if I can help because perhaps her husband is out of town and she ran out of diapers or milk… perhaps the people building a new 10,000 sq ft estate home just sold a company they spent their lives building. I don’t know and frankly it’s simply none of my business.
I am not perfect about the not-judging thing yet. Oddly, I am always successful in my counseling practice but when I’m driving along every once in a while a little of my mother pops up and I am quick to pass judgment. I am always asking for forgiveness.
Many times, judgment comes from a stringent belief that people ‘should’ be a particular way and that there is only one ‘right’ way. THAT topic will be covered in a post soon!