A pretty boy told me a strange thing once. Five minutes after meeting me (for breakfast at The Mug – our first offline interaction), he said he really felt at home with me, and that made him uncomfortable. I asked why. He said, ‘It’s too easy to trust you. You’re sitting there projecting openness, acceptance, and warmth, but I know you’re silently judging me.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just smiled.
We proceeded to have french toast, hot chocolate, pinacolada cake, and a satisfying three hour conversation, all before 10.00 a.m. I like that boy. It didn’t go anywhere (he had a girlfriend), but I really like that boy. Still … he did make me wonder about my quietly judgemental tendencies.
Some people say they feel safe with me, because I accept them as they are. Others say I’m opinionated, snobbish, and a major pretender. Me? I crave acceptance for being who I am, and I hate getting my feelings hurt, so I try to give others what I want for myself. I don’t always succeed, but I try.
(Also, I have a pretty deep-seated rejection complex, which I serve by living in voluntary hermit mode. They can’t hurt you if you don’t let them in.)
I do recognise my inner judginess though. It’s something I asked the universe to weed out of me this year, and it – the universe – is doing a pretty good job. I’m seeing new sides of people I’ve known for years, and realising there’s method to their madness. It doesn’t make them any less mad, but knowing how they got that way … it paints them in a new light.
When I set out on this quest, I thought it would change my opinion about people. It hasn’t. The idiots are still idiots. The flakes are still flakes. The meanies are still mean. But I can see the journey to their nature, and the triggers behind their character. I have a deeper understanding of the reason they act. It doesn’t make it okay, but it helps it make sense.
My best friend is one the least judgemental people I know. He embraces everyone, accepts everyone, sees the humanity in them, even when they’re full of shit. It’s a beautiful trait to have. The downside is other people’s assumptions. If we are judged by the company we keep, then his open-door policy means he’s categorised in the same dark spaces as those he protects.
In away, he’s the one that’s driving me to non-judgement. Because I know him well enough not to lump him with his friends. And if I can do this for him, then in principle, I can extend this ‘kindness’ to the rest of the world too. Last year, he taught me to let go of grudges. This year, I want to let go of judgement. And so far, the universe is going HAM with this teaching moment.
One aspect I’m struggling with is (not) defining people by their past. It’s especially poignant in this age of digging up someone’s tweets or posts from 20 months ago – sometimes as far as 20 years. I’ve always said if you did bad shit back then, you’re the same bad person now. I hold myself to that standard … which is why I still carry the shame of some fuck-ups from my twenties.
But I’m learning things. People change. Bad people can do good shit, and good peple can do terrible things. These things they do don’t always define who they are. They can, but they don’t have to. And another thing…
I know I’m not the same person. I know I won’t do that shit again. But I did it, I own it, and I carry it. I suppose … I suppose I should learn to forgive it. In myself, and in others. Because people do grow. People do change. And part of taking people as they are … is accepting who they are right now.
BFF will sometimes tell me he wishes we’d met earlier. And I say if we met before we did, we probably wouldn’t have liked each other, because we were different people then. So if I can accept that I love who he is now, even as I dislike who he was then, I can extend this courtesy to other areas of my life. To other people. To myself.
I suppose the deciding factor is more present. Some people will tell you they’ve changed … then pull the same crap they did before. So while you can forgive their past ills, you’re still left with their shitty present. In those cases, it’s all very well to say ‘don’t judge’ … but it comes with a hefty dose of ‘don’t indulge.’ For my own safety and sanity.
And, without really noticing it, my 2019 quest not to judge others is a far deeper dilemma. I assumed it was about making my way more easily through the world, letting go of pointlessly negative energy, practicing tolerance and empathy. But it turns out what I’m really seeking … is not to judge myself.
♫ swallowed in the sea ♫ coldplay ♫