There aren’t many judgement free zones these days. Facebook has become an excuse to post all kinds of judgements that come in the form of complaining about others, commenting on articles, and other things too numerous to list.
This morning, a friend of mine posted a picture of a sports car parked in a handicapped spot, and a lot of people commented that the friend should park too close to it, that if someone can get in and out of a car like that, they don’t need a handicapped space, that the person who had that car was probably “lawsuit-happy,” and other things.
I want to encourage you to try to make your brain into a judgement free zone, free from judging yourself, and free from judging others. I con’t know how many times I’ve heard people say some variation of “don’t judge me until you know me.”
Well, guess what?
We all have stories.
I get it; it’s easy to jump to conclusions about people. It’s easy to say that if a person is handicapped, they shouldn’t be getting in and out of a sports car. But there are a lot of handicaps that don’t show. People sometimes have muscle disorders that make it difficult for them to move. Or maybe they’re moving just fine now, but can’t predict if they’ll still be moving fine five minutes from now.
I know someone who’s had 3 or 4 cervical spine surgeries. This person has struggled with walking. Some days she can walk a mile. Some days she falls a lot. She used to have to ride a motorized cart around the grocery store, and it embarrassed her because she thought people would think she was using it because she was “fat” instead of because of medical issues. These days, she doesn’t need the cart, but parking lots continue to be tripping hazards. She still parks in the handicapped spots because she is handicapped, and she never knows when she’ll struggle with walking.
She’s relatively young looking, and most of the time, she walks fine. She doesn’t limp or stumble, and you can’t see the scars on her neck because they’re covered with hair. It would be easy to assume that she parks in the handicapped spot because of her weight or because of laziness.
If you want to make an assumption, assume that everyone has a story. When I first started trying to change my mindset from judgement to acceptance, I found it easier to make up stories about someone.
That person who cut me off in traffic isn’t a jerk; he just got the news that his child is sick and he’s rushing home because he loves her so much. That person who was rude to me in the grocery store was up all night caring for her mother, who has cancer. That 20 year old who parked in the handicapped spot and appears to be in perfect health actually has multiple sclerosis.
It doesn’t matter to me if these stories are true or not. What matters is that they could be true. How horrible would I feel if I found out that one of those things was true, and I hadn’t responded with compassion? I’m okay with being wrong in the opposite direction; I was compassionate and kind, but the person was really a jerk. I can live with that. But unkindness to someone who’s struggling with something? Wouldn’t I want people to be a little kinder to me if I were trying to manage a heavy burden that day?
None of us is going to be perfect at this. There are days when I just want to growl at everyone and everything. But I would hope that on those days, someone out there who has to deal with me, thinks, “I bet she’s not always like this. She’s probably just having a bad day, so I’ll be a little nicer.”
Kindness costs nothing, but judgement is expensive.