I’ve never been big on the idea of the New Year’s Resolution. Honestly, it shouldn’t take the arrival of a specific date to make you want to evolve your own character. Want to lose weight? Don’t wait for a particular day to do it, just go ahead and start as soon as you think of it instead of waiting until Monday, or after the holidays, or the new year, or whatever. But when I decided to start trying to be less judgmental it just happened to be on the first day of the year. So, sure, let’s call it a New Year’s Resolution.
But it’s turning out to be a lot harder than I thought.
I’m sure someone out there is trying to come up with a scientific reason why we make immediate judgments about people. Maybe it’s to make ourselves feel better. Maybe it’s just become habit to constantly think in those terms. I don’t really know.
What I do know is that most of our current social problems can be traced to groups of us agreeing on rash judgments of a few people as being wrong or bad.
Racial stereotypes, rape culture, fat shaming, poor shaming, feminism, all of those things can be traced to a point where someone made a rash judgment about a person, or group of people, that others agreed with, and it grew from there.
Here’s a common example from my husband:
I’ve mentioned before that my husband is a communications installer. This means that nearly every part of his job involves being in a stranger’s home. Because of this, he sees people, for the most part, as they are every day. When he goes into a house and sees a bunch of 30 inch monitors on the two or three computers in the house, and a bunch of dirty kids in dirty diapers, he makes the judgment that they are lazy and spending their money on the wrong priorities instead of the ones that matter.
What he doesn’t realize is this:
Our youngest daughter is really active and pretty much stays dirty all day because it’s cheaper and easier than giving her a bath 50 times a day. When I talk about the time before he and I got together, when I was still a single mom, I have mentioned that I sometimes had to leave my kids in a diaper as long as I could so that I didn’t have to buy them as often. Also, we own a few higher end things ourselves, dirt bike, big TV, a couple of computers, etc, all of which have been bought with tax returns over the years.
Luckily, although my husband is rather brusque, he listens when I point out to him that he doesn’t know when they bought those things, or what’s happened since. And that if someone was looking at us with as little information as he has when he first sees someone, they could make the same judgments, even though we know better.
I’m sure the above makes it sound like I’m a saint when it comes to being open instead of being judgmental; but I sooooo am not.
You see, I have some very harsh prejudices. There are certain things that I automatically jump to the most negative conclusion on.
My biggest issues? Fat people, and people who waste shit…both of which actually inform each other. (which, incidentally, leads to a LOT of self-loathing since I’m considered clinically obese myself.)
Logically, I know that the increase in obesity in America is due in part to: overpowering and misleading food and drink ad campaigns, a lack of availability of food that isn’t stuffed full of fats and sugars and/or processed grains that turn into sugar, and then fat, during digestion, and a lack of real and reliable information about food and food preparation. There have been numerous scientific studies proving that the increase in obesity, and obesity related illness, in this country is in direct correlation to our lowest wages being insufficient to allow families to buy healthy foods; and instead being forced to rely on over-processed, fat laden, low quality foods. I know these things….
But as soon as I see someone who is overweight I automatically judge them as being lazy over-eaters who are eating food that someone else could use….and this includes myself.
As for waste, big vehicles piss me off…even though I drive a monstrous Ford truck myself. Which, incidentally, brings me to the moment when I realized how judgmental I’m still being.
Yesterday I went to the high school after my oldest daughter texted me with a “CODE RED” (for those who don’t understand, code red is our speak for a sudden, heavy, and unexpected period that ruins your clothes.) So I went to the school to pick her up.
Driving through the parking lot I noticed an absolute crap-ton of big trucks in the student parking area. Like every other vehicle was a Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, or Chevy Silverado, or something even bigger. Why do kids need these huge trucks in an area that isn’t known for it’s rugged terrain? OK, so we do have a fairly big (unofficial) dirt and mud recreational area; but that’s no excuse!
I was working myself up to a huge rant on excess and waste when I suddenly realized something….
None of the trucks, or big SUV’s, were new, and most were more than 5 years old.
So it’s really likely that these kids were driving their parents’ old, paid for, vehicles in order to save money. Or, since lots of people in this area work up to an hour or more from where they live, the kid gets to drive the truck the few miles to and from school, while the parent(s) take the more fuel economic vehicle to work. That was about the time I remembered that my husband and I once considered letting the kids drive the truck because the gas for it was more expensive, which would limit their ability to go very far from home, as well as a hundred other excuses.
That’s when I realized that I have HUGE flaw in my own judgment.
Kid gets to drive to school but I don’t have the ability to do the same for my kid…well then that parent is just a wasteful, shallow, son of a bitch, for giving a kid a huge, gas sucking, monstrosity instead of something more practical and sensible. They are beneath me and well deserving of my ridicule since I’m sooo much better than that.
You see, I can make a thousand excuses why a person less fortunate than me can end up in that position and why they shouldn’t be judged for it…but I can’t stand it when someone has more than I do and can, conversely, come up with a thousand reasons why they shouldn’t be that fortunate and why I can judge them for it.
Which means that I am not resolving to be less judgmental, but more understanding. And now that I’ve realized that I should be able to make a little more progress….eventually.