Lately, I’ve really been focusing on trying to be less judgmental. It’s a tricky resolution, because it’s hard to turn it into specific, manageable resolutions to keep me on track. What, exactly, do I do differently in my life to be less judgmental? I need to change the way I think.
One of my helpful mantras, though, is to “Mind my own business.” I remind myself:
1. No one asked for my advice. Except in the rare instance when people specifically ask me for help clearing their clutter, raising their children, or deciding their careers, I should keep my advice to myself.
2. I don’t know the whole story. It’s very easy to assume that I understand a situation and to form a judgment when in fact, I understand almost nothing about what’s happening.
3. It doesn’t affect me. A friend was all worked up about some stupid thing a celebrity did – she was really, truly annoyed. I wanted to say, “You don’t know this person, you’ve never even seen her in person. Why let yourself get so upset about something that has no possible affect on you?” And I remind myself of the same thing.
4. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: Just because something makes me happy doesn’t mean that it will make someone else happy, and vice versa. I often fight the impulse to be a happiness bully, but what works for me might not work for someone else. I remind myself of the negative example of Thoreau: I almost can’t bear to read Thoreau’s Walden, because he’s so disdainful of other people’s tastes and values. When he writes about his own experience and views, I find his work very compelling, but he’s very judgmental and dismissive of any different vision of a happy life.
5. Don’t gossip.
6. I’m on someone else’s turf. I’m puzzled by my mother-in-law’s habit of keeping her toaster unplugged. Why — why keep the toaster unplugged? Whenever I want to challenge her to defend her unplugged-toaster position, I remind myself, “This is her apartment and her rule. Unplug the toaster.” (I have to confess, I usually forget to unplug it. But I mean to unplug it.)
7. Find explanations in charity. One of my favorite writers, Flannery O’Connor, wrote in a letter to a friend: “From 15 to 18 is an age at which one is very sensitive to the sins of others, as I know from recollections of myself. At that age you don’t look for what is hidden. It is a sign of maturity not to be scandalized and to try to find explanations in charity.”
As photographer Edward Weston observed in his Daybooks, “A lifetime can well be spent correcting and improving one’s own faults without bothering about others.”
How about you? Do you struggle to mind your own business — or what are some other ways of trying to be less judgmental?
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