Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: compassion

Why Are We So Quick to Social Judgment and Condemnation?

Are we all so without sin that we can sit above the rest of world in social judgment, condemning everyone else of their terrible mistakes?

I apologize for the negativity I’m throwing your way today, but there’s something I need to get off my chest. We’ve all heard the story this week about a crew member killed by accident on a movie set and it has my heart all open once again. The next few hundred words aren’t about the incident but our reactions, our lack of compassion and overactive social judgment.

On my way into the city this week, I decided not to listen to any podcasts, but to listen to some music quietly and think. Sidenote: the “Legacy of Laurel Canyon” playlist on Spotify is excellent for such mental wanderings. The last thing I scrawled out in my notebook as I drove was:

“Why are we so quick to judge and condemn everyone we see or hear about? It’s terrifying.”

It’s everywhere I look, social media posts, news media, and comments. One quick glance at anyone or any situation and we’ve summed up the person and condemned them to die a horrible death, as if the one action we know about is the one that represents everything they were, are, and will be: useless.

One of the reasons I am so hesitant about social media the past few years is because watching people, not just strangers on newsfeeds, but friends and family, do this every day makes it harder and harder for me to go out into the world, let alone share anything I’m doing online. I beginning to live in mortal fear of making a misstep and being hounded by the lynch mob of public opinion.

I hear people say, “Don’t worry so much about what others think! Just focus on yourself. If you think you’re good, that’s all that matters.” But does it these days?

Anything anyone says or does can be taken out of context and made into a nightmare on the internet. Any mistake you make can be captured and ridiculed and passed around for the social judgment and condemnation of millions.

A couple years ago, when my son and I drove our Baja VW Bug up to the mountains, there was so snow. It was slippery and, yes, probably a little dangerous. The risk seemed acceptable to us. I trust my son’s abilities, he’s level-headed and smart. The worst that could have happened was that we might have gotten stuck in the snow and need to be rescued by a tow-truck. I’ll admit it, a little risk is fun.

But I wasn’t worried about dying on the side of the road or the cost of repairs to our vehicle. All I could think about was the attacks I might receive on social media if we got into the news. “Homeschool Mom Lets Teenager Drive in Snow” The social judgment would be severe and not necessarily limited to words printed in the comments of an article.

I’m not immune to knee-jerk social judgment. The news stories that come out daily make me cringe, too. Typically, my immediate thought is, “This shouldn’t have happened!” or “What were they thinking?” But then I stop and think about that person. How would I feel if a mistake I made killed someone? How would I react to realizing that my misjudgment or ignorance, or even my own laziness or lack of attention, caused something terrible to happen?

How would you feel? Would it make you feel better to open your internet browser and find the headlines about what kind of an asshole you are; would it bring anyone back or heal any wounds? Would it fix everything to get emails, texts, and comments directed at the different ways you should pay for what you’ve done? Or would all that nastiness only create more pain and strife; extend one horrible incident into more?

Where is our compassion for others? Why do we watch the humanity around us with an eye of contempt, ready to pass judgment and string up anyone that comes across our path?

It’s as if we are all Romans at the Coliseum, watching and cheering as others are thrown to the lions. “Who’s next?” we scream into the arena. “He deserved it!” Human beings being torn apart for our amusement.

Does it make us feel better? Does it lift us up to throw words of hate at each other? And don’t we worry about when the wheel of misfortune will fall on us? Or do WE believe we are above all the stupid mistake THEY make?

What am I doing to combat this? I’m taking some advice from Arthur Brooks and extending more love and acceptance into the world, one interaction at a time. When I saw the articles about the movie set incident come into my news feed, I read them with shock at first, but didn’t respond to it. I sat there thinking about it awhile.

When it came up again through friends in the film industry and out of it, I started to respond but then pulled back. Yes, I have my two cents, but it seems that the world is rich with opinions and points of view and doesn’t need them.

I reversed things and thought about what it would be like to be the person that made the mistake. I can’t imagine it fully. It hurts too much. And because I can feel that I don’t think adding to that injury is a positive move.

I’m loving into people instead of condemning.

Leads me to think of a previous post I wrote, “Assuming Positive Intent is the Start to More Compassion” while reading “The Art of Happiness.”

But It’s My Right!

In all things.

In a perfect world, this would be a beautiful mantra to live by. But what about in this world? Can we live this way in a world where scarcity actually exists? Where we are bombarded with the worry that if we don’t take all we can, someone else will and we’ll be left with nothing?

I believe we can.

In many aspects of our lives, scarcity is real. We have a limited amount of time and energy, for one thing. I may have the means to visit every state in the union, but I only have so many days in my life. Most of us have a limited supply of money, everyone but the federal government that is. They seem to be able to keep printing new dollars every day with no recourse whatsoever.

Wait… Let’s stick to things we can do something about, like our own attitudes and actions.

There are things in our world that are only believed to be scarce and those are things we can work with. Love is one. Compassion. Empathy. Care. These are things that we can give infinitely, but should we take more than we need? Can I take too much love from others?

Yes. I can demand their attention, insist they love only me or give them hell for not giving me the affection I want. I think it is better to accept what they give voluntarily and learn to meet my own needs instead of insisting that others fill them.

Come to think of it, it may even work for scarce items like food and water. I may need a certain amount of water to survive and I could hoard it because I need it and live longer. But I could also choose to show compassion and share what I have, allowing others to do the same for me…or not. My life may be shorter, but it may also be more fulfilling.

This all sounds like bullshit. I’m dancing around an idea that I can’t quite put my finger on. What am I responding to? What am I really trying to say?

A friend suggested that since someone’s hours were cut back at work, that they should apply for unemployment. I was at a loss for words to express why I was so offended by the idea. In this instance, there was simply no need for more money, but that didn’t seem to matter. He had a right to more and should take it. I just don’t agree with that at all.

Hours later, driving in silence (which is one of the ways I really find time to think) the idea of scarcity came to me. Why do we scrabble for more, hoard it all up as if someone might take it from us? Why do we sit on our possessions like a fire-breathing dragon? My money. My things. My family. Mine!

I’m guilty of it myself. I have plenty. I could be giving more to help those that don’t. But again and again, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of. I’m already caring for my family and friends as best that I can. You all voted to take my earnings from me before I could spend it and give it to programs that help people…and it never seems to be enough. You wanted the government to do it with force and now you want me to give more voluntarily? I feel used and angry, like a child forced to share a precious toy before they were ready. You try to teach a lesson and end up creating monsters. Live with this monster you’ve created!

This scarcity thing, the use of force by vote, and the “it’s my right” idea, that’s what is bothering me and I can’t seem to put my finger on how to express it clearly.

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