Keeping My Mouth Shut

A week or two ago we went to buy the kids their spring clothes.  Roger and I were talking about how many people were out shopping at the outlets on a Monday (Roger’s only day off) and scornfully from the backseat Lily says, “All of these people are out here buying things they don’t need and wasting money and they should be doing something better at home!” No, no, no I thought! That’s not the message I wanted you to get little girl! We spend a lot of time talking about why we do or don’t do the things that we do, like any parents do. Justify and explain to your children your lifestyle. But I never wanted her to translate that into judgemental stares about people who don’t live like we do! So how then, I wondered, do we share and explain our lives without being derogatory and judgemental towards other people? Why is judgement of others the default reaction to uplifting your own beliefs?

My husband and I are always annoyed by the amount of people that complain about how tough their middle class american life is (yes, I note the fact that I’m complaining about complainers right now), but complaining is almost always followed by judgemental comments about how other people “don’t know how it is” or “dont live in reality” or are somehow “milking the system” because they aren’t miserable too. That is probably the oddest thing I fine, is that it isn’t so much that people like to judge just anyone…they like to say harsh things about people who are happy when we feel that they have no right to be happy. I know I do this all the time too, which is probably where my daughter picked it up. I think, and probably say, something about “how can people be happy with that consumeristic lifestyle?” as if it makes me feel better knowing that I am happy, while they must be miserable and unfulfilled. We have these unwritten rules of society that people feel should be followed, and it’s somewhat ok if people don’t follow them, but for people to not follow them and be happy not following them?! No, no, no! And lots of times we actually wish bad things on others…”they’ll get what they deserve.” “We’ll see how that works out for you.” And yes, many times, people do fail, and doubters are often proved correct. I do believe that society and it’s “rules” serve a valuable human purpose, just as societies have a valuable purpose in almost all animal species, but I don’t think that means we can deride people for every adnormality, especially since judgement often seems to be out of the motives of making ourselves feel better, not to genuinely help the other person. It’s so often done behind the back, and many times not even about a certain person but about a large group of people.

I saw this little clip from a lecture given by Viktor Frankl, talking about why we should look at each other through rose tinted glasses. That when we try to see the best in each other, we enable each other to live up to our capabilities and therefore be the best we can be, while if we try to see man “as he is,” we end up pushing him to be less than he could potentially be. This may be true for psychologist and philosophers, but I would argue that many people don’t even attempt to see man as he is, but try to see man as they would like him to be, which is in a lower, more base and crass place than themselves. People are so eager to tear each other down.

Like I said, I think that judgement can be useful and even helpful. But I really don’t think a lack of judgement is the problem with the world. And I wouldn’t even say you need to go the other direction and have a hippie philosophy of peace and love for everyone. Sometimes I just need to learn to shut my mouth. Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You could even say if you don’t have something positive to say don’t say anything at all. I really want my children to be kind, not harsh, which I know means holding my tongue, especially towards them. All of the parenting books (and dog training books toohaha) tell you that discipline is so much easier by rewarding and pointing out what your children are doing right, instead of what they are doing wrong, which maybe should be a good strategy to apply to others as well. And most importantly, I know I need to start takingjoy in other’s happiness rather than wishing them unhappiness simply because I don’t agree with the choices they make in their lives. To end I’m just going to leave you an excerpt from  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:

“She saw a girl named Joanna come out of her house a few doors away. Joanna was taking her baby out for an airing in its carriage. A gasp came up from some housewives who had stopped to gossip on the sidewalk while going to and fro about their shopping. You see, Joanna was not married. She was a girl who had gotten into trouble. Her baby was illegitimate– bastard was the word they used in the neighborhood.– and these good women felt that Joanna had no right to act like a proud mother and bring her baby into the light of day. They felt that she should have kept it hidden in some dark place. Francie was curious about Joanna and the baby. She had heard mama and papa talking about them. She started at the baby when the carriage came by. It was a beautiful little thing sitting up happily in its carriage. Maybe Joanna was a bad girl but certainly she kept her baby sweeter and daintier than these good women kept theirs. The baby wore a pretty frilled bonnet and a clean white dress and bib. The carriage cover was spotless and showed much loving handiwork in its embroidery….The whispering women stopped when Joanna came by and started up when she had passed. Each time Joanna passed, her cheeks got pinker, her head went higher and her skirt flipped behind her more defiantly. She seemed to grow prettier and prouder as shewalked. She stopped oftener than needed to adjust the baby’s coverlet. Shemaddened the woman by touching the baby’s cheek and smiling tenderly at it. How dare she! How dare she, they thought, act as though she had a right to all that?…”Aint you ashamed of yourself?” “What for?” Joanna wanted to know. This infuriated the woman. “What for, she asks,” she reported to the other women. “I’ll tell you when for. Because you’re a disgrace and a bum. You got no right to parade the streets with your bastard where innocent children can see you.” “Get off the street, get off the street””You’re all jealous,” said Joanna evenly. “She says we’re jealous,” reported the interlocutor. “Jealous of what, you?” Then, acting on an instinct that was strong even in Christ’s day, she picked a stone out of the gutter and threw it at Joanna. It was the signal for theother woman to start throwing stones. One, droller than the rest, threw a ball of horse manure. Some of the stones hit Joanna but a sharp pointed one missed and struck the baby’s forehead. Immediately, a thin clear trickle of blood ran down thebaby’s face and spotted its clean bib. The baby whimpered and held out its armd for its mother to pick it up.” (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52731437-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

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