In the Scheme of Things
May 16, 2016
So Much Prettier
"You'd be so much prettier without those freckles," my high school boyfriend commented as we walked hand-in-hand along a California beach. "Why don't you try bleach cream?"
Those were stinging words to my seventeen year old ego. Still, I researched the option, ultimately deciding I liked my freckles. His surface judgment about my looks stayed with me until I discovered he was only interested in the wrapping. In the end, I judged him shallow.
I realize that I'm judged by how I look, what I write, what I wear, what I eat, what I read, how I act, how I vote, where I live, who I know or don't know, and a thousand other dimensions. We all are.
But it still seems unfair others might conclude I'm aloof when I'm only shy, distant when I'm overwhelmed, or rude when I'm frightened. It seems equally biased that I might extrapolate and use surface elements like someone's appearance, out of control kids, or non-observant behavior to make determinations about them. But sometimes I do.
I can be quick to evaluate, to smugly assess behavior and pass judgment. Those are the times I'd be wise to consider the words of novelist Arnold Bennett, "It is well, when judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality."
If our children are better behaved, our house more organized, our life more together, or our body more fit, we judge ourselves more successful. We may even think others see us that way. At times, we even feel better when we notice others' mistakes, idiosyncrasies, and challenges. That's because when we're judging others, we're really judging ourselves -- looking to see how we measure up against them, at least in our own minds.
Somewhere along the way, I began noticing my judgmental thoughts more and more, realizing I was evaluating, criticizing, and finding fault more often than I was congratulating, appreciating, and embracing strengths. The more judging my behavior, the less loving my actions. Like my high school boyfriend, I was looking at the wrapping and missing the center.
In Raisin in the Sun, the character of Mama offers advice this way: "Whenever you start to measure somebody, measure him right, child -- make sure you done take into account what hills and valleys he came through before he got to wherever he is."
I'm taking Mama's advice. These days, I'm working on more loving thoughts; less judgmental ones. A goal each day is to get through that day without being judgmental. Some days I'm better than others, but I'm improving. As I do, I'm discovering that, in the scheme of things, we're all so much prettier without those superficial judgments.