Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Judgment Day

The topic for today is judgment. Not exercising good judgment, but more specifically placing judgment upon others. A silly little comment made by a neighbor got me to thinking about this. For the second time in a week, my son and I rode past this neighbor at the bus stop as we biked our way to school, he zipping by in his Incredibles helmet on his blue-flamed bike, and me on my husband's bike with the behemoth bike trailer on back and my curly-topped toddler strapped safely inside.

On the first day, "Judging Neighbie" (my new name for her), shook her head at me and said,"How can you ride your bikes with all of these mosquitoes out here? You all are going to be eaten alive!" I laughed it off, joking that I was not very smart to not spray us down with bug spray before we left. Then, today, before I even reached her block, I could feel her comment reaching out to me through her eyes. As we passed, she shook her head again, but this time it was less in a quick observatory kind of way and more in a scolding manner. "Those bugs are going to really be biting you all," she quickly said. I smiled again and said, "Neh. Today I sprayed us down."

There IS a serious mosquito problem right now, thanks to the hurricanes. I could write a whole blog on this. The mosquitoes are mean, swarmy, and bite the Dickens right out of you. It's not pretty.

But, don't you think there is less chance of a mosquito biting you when you're hauling your fanny on a moving bike to get your kid to school on time, than standing still with your arms crossed at a street corner where water is standing by the curb?

Her comments weren't a big deal to me. I can tell this lady is very quick to disapprove of people and things around her. And, that kind of quick judgment is something I am quite familiar with, actually. I grew up with a very judgmental parent, and her negativity really changed who I became as a person from very early on. I guess, I should thank her for that really. Because of her, I strive to never label or assume anything about anyone at first glance.

My Mom is a highly-intelligent and artistic woman, and I admire a great many things about her. But, one thing I have never understood is her quick-to-judge nature. She had a label for everyone in our small Texas town as I was growing up. She wasn't a gossip or a mean-spirited person openly. But, as soon as we got home from whatever social engagement we'd been attending, she would give me her take on all the people there and all the things that they most definitely were. And her opinions were quickly made and then set in stone. And, almost always, they were negative.

This behavior has not mellowed with age, unfortunately. I actually think it has gotten worse. And, although I have written many times of my dear grandmother on here and how much I have missed her since her passing over a year ago, she was quite guilty of judging as well.

A good example of my mom was when, a few years ago, I got a random email from a guy that I used to know in high school. He'd found my email on one of those high school reunion sites and sent me messages with pictures of his son, his wife and told me about their life. Now, this guy I remember very well from school. He moved into town when I was a sophomore. His father was the new principal at our school, and he took a lot of grief over that fact. Because my mother was a teacher in my middle school, I had been there, and always felt sympathy for him. He was a nice enough guy. A little on the nerdy side, but extremely kind-hearted. I actually went on one date with him and found no attraction at all, but we remained friends. He dated a classmate/friend of mine and we both were involved with cross country and long-distance running. So, we saw each other a lot in school and had a lot of the same friends, even though we weren't in the same class.

After a series of nice email exchanges and sharing what we knew about various friends we graduated with, what we were doing now, etc, our emails died down. But, it was so nice to me, as someone who has moved away from our little town, to connect with someone who knew me then--someone who ALSO had broken away from that life and sought out a career and a home somewhere different.

I mistakenly mentioned talking to this guy to my mom. Before I got anything out of my mouth about our emails, she jumped in with her assessment on him. It went something like, "oh, he was such a fake nice person. His parents were the same way and you could just tell they lied all the time to people. I couldn't stand working with his mother. And, I've heard he and his father had horrible tempers too...there might have been some abuse going on there. I wouldn't be surprised. And, I just got sick of his getting to play ahead of other kids on the basketball team all because his father was principal. It was so unfair..."

This is not even the cream of the judging crop from her, but you get the picture. She always had some label to put on almost anyone I ever mentioned. It got to where I didn't even tell her things anymore, because I was tired of the negativity. I'm still like that to this day. She remembers everyone in a negative way. I tend to forget the negatives and remember the things I liked about them.

I had a boss like this at one of my first jobs too. I was at a company that paid very little to its writers and our department was suffering through about 50 percent turnover thanks to the pay and ridiculous workloads and long hours. This man would pull out a resume and then make judgments about the person, based on their resume! "Oh, this person is WAY too educated. There is no way they'll work for our pay." (toss) "And, this person has an ART degree. They would never be satisfied working with the technical material we work with. Their creativity would be stifled. Next!" (toss) Finally, a co-worker and I both took a stand with the boss and called him out for his quick judgments on people he has never even interviewed. My goodness, at that job we couldn't BE so picky! We needed warm bodies in the cubes to crank out the work!

What is it about people that makes some want to quickly put people in their assigned boxes in their labeling minds? Occasionally, I find myself doing this and I try to stop myself immediately. After living with someone who could never change their mindset about someone once they'd judged them, I now strive to be the opposite. It has completely driven my political beliefs, religious beliefs (judge not, lest ye be judged) and friendships. I have had life experiences my dear mother will never have because I opened my mind and chose not to judge. I pride myself on the fact that I try to put myself in someone else's shoes, almost to a fault at times. And, I back away from people when I find that they are judgers. Who needs that kind of negativity in their life?

As I rode back from taking my son to school this morning, I had hoped I'd see that "Judging Neighbie" on the corner still. I was ready to tell her that I had not a single bite on me and smile sweetly as I peddled away.

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