A couple of days ago, I was out walking my dog along the boardwalk when I noticed a little girl standing all alone. She couldn’t have been more than three-years-old. Four tops. She wasn’t crying, but she wasn’t smiling either. She was looking around very seriously. First, to the water south of the boardwalk, and then north towards the park. It wasn’t until I got close to her some 30 seconds later (count that out — it’s actually a pretty long time) that I saw a woman and smaller child, most likely her mother and little brother, hiding behind a tree giggling.
I walked past the girl and then looked back to see if she’d located them. She hadn’t. And then I became really pissed off. I mean, seriously, who in their right mind thinks it’s funny to trick your daughter into thinking that you’ve abandoned her? I stopped and waited to see how long that mother could keep this horrible game up. A few seconds later, the little girl spotted them and ran towards her mom in tears. The mom received her with a hug and more giggles. Horrid, right?
I continued on my way. In my neighbourhood, it’s an unwritten pre-requisite that you own a dog. I’d guess a good two-thirds of the population have some sort of canine companion. Some large, some small, some young, some old, some cute, some not-so-much — but never before had I seen one as ridiculous-looking as the poodle that was trotting towards me.
Talk about humiliating. This poor dog had been shorn within a millimetre of his (definitely a boy) organs. Seriously, you could see what he’d eaten for breakfast. The only evidence of his former furry self was a lion’s mane, a pompom tail and a furry bracelet around each ankle. Either he was being entered into some Best in Show competition, or his owner was completely off her nut.
Oh … and speaking of dogs, there’s Baby. Baby is a scruffy little grey dog. But Baby’s not the issue. It’s her owner. You should hear the way she talks to this dog. “Oh Baby, look, there’s another little one? Are you going to come and say hi? Oh, I know you’re shy, aren’t you Baby. Yes you are. I know you are sweetheart.” News flash lady: Baby is a dog. Not a human being. And you sound completely crazy.
But hold on a minute.
Note to self: stop being so judgemental!
Self, you’re just as obsessed with your dog as this lady is with Baby, so she’s no crazier than you. Remember when your husband asked you if you loved the dog more than you loved him and you paused for an uncomfortably long time before replying “no?” as if you weren’t quite sure whether you’d answered correctly?
Oh, and what about when you gave your dog a Mohawk. And if that wasn’t bad enough, you used styling product to maximize the effect. What were you thinking then?
Or that time you bullied your daughter into accepting eyedrops by saying, “Fine, don’t blame me if your eyeballs fall out.” You’re not so perfect yourself, lady, so what’s with all the judging?
That’s the question I asked myself when I realized how horribly judgemental I was being, and it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. By judging others I get to elevate my rightness by calling out other people’s wrongness. And that’s not who I want to be.
So I’ve come up with a plan. Next time I witness questionable parenting, a naked dog, a fashion crime, or a quirky dog lover, I shall ask myself this question:
What’s that all about?
And unless I can answer with 100% certainty (fat chance), I will endeavour not to judge. I only wish I had thought of this a few weeks ago, before sending a family member a well-intentioned but definitely judgy email that has had some serious repercussions on our relationship. In fact, as soon as I’m done posting this, I’ll be emailing him a sincere apology and hoping for his forgiveness.
How to indulge your curiosity
Looking back on what happened between my tis family member and me, it would have been more of a conversation starter (vs. complete stopper) if I had heeded the advice that Leo Babuta shares in his post entitled Letting Go of Judging. He suggests asking yourself these questions when you notice yourself passing judgement:
- Why are you judging?
- What expectations do you have that are unrealistic?
- What can you guess about what the other person is really going through?
- Can you find out more? (This isn’t always realistic but sometimes you can.)
- What about the other person can you appreciate?
- Can you get out of your self-centredness and put yourself in the other person’s shoes?
- Can you imagine a time when you were going through something similar?
At the end of the day, it’s all about empathy. Empathy and human kindness. And I would like others to judge me as being someone who demonstrates both. I know it won’t always be the easier road, but it will definitely be the higher one.
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