When I was growing up, my mother used to speak to me about choice. Precisely, the choices I would make and the impact they would have on ME. It was her way of letting me know that when my decisions are dictated by influences other than my own, it will serve to diminish my values and my awareness of who I really am. In turn, I will become jaundiced and angry. Here is precisely what she told me. If you walk through life looking for who you are in the eyes of others, you will never find a place of your own on this earth. It took me most my adult life to figure that out.
Here’s where I am at with that advice today, as I read the following article in the Kansas City Star last week. I got up and let that ”at the moment” catabolic judgmental bullsh*t present itself to me while I walked the floor. I then kicked that BS to the curb.
In some, possibly most cases, judgment on this topic will be swift. I will share mine with you. It was simple.
Can I not be safe to express myself in any form and not have to ask you if you’re ok with it first? I then made a choice to release my judgment specific to the article. My choice was driven in the following fashion. What was the intent of American Eagle in putting this item in their stores for sale to the general public? I can guess it wasn’t to symbolize slavery or make it fashionable. Do I KNOW that to be a fact? Nope, I don’t. With that said, I turned to this question. Am I offended by this metal bracelet in any way or any reason? No, I am not.
My answer was… No, I am not.
One of my higher values is one of compassion, another is one of respect. By making a choice to say I am not offended, did I diminish my compassion for those who are families were grossly affected being delivered into slavery in this country, or any other? Did I lose respect for those individuals or more importantly anyone of any race that has ever been profoundly impacted by the disregard for the human right to freely exist upon this earth without judgment as a lesser being? No, I did not.
And yet, here is where we are all at in this befuddled society, living in America today.
I’m not. I’m not going to make a choice to feel one way or the other based off whatever the f*ck it is that is crawling up your ass today. You see you may have a reason to be offended. And you know what? I am going to RESPECT that right. Regardless of what the offense may be, it is entirely your choice. I will continue to be compassionate about your feelings, and I won’t ridicule them or make them seem small. Why? Because it is your CHOICE. You made it! It’s yours! I have no influence over that. Moreover, why should I?
And so kids here is the kicker. The icing on the cake, the real meaning of Christmas. Well, when you think about it, it makes sense.
Speak your mind. Make your choices. Be offended. It is your inalienable right damnit! But speak it without judging me. That’s judgment in the empirical sense. Because unless you know me, have experienced me, you don’t know doodly f*cking squat about me and thus have no right to judge me. We are living, ahem, existing in a judgmental free-for-all at this moment in time in our country. And that free for all, aside from politics, economy, environment, and the list goes on, is the slamming of the door called dialogue, in our faces.
That discourse, that vital vessel by which we create the opportunity to understand one another better, needs to breathe. And as long as we, as a society, choose to let personal judgment set the tone of our values systems then we are suffocating all attempts at the possibility of understanding. Understanding in the sense that you and I understand each other’s perspective. We don’t necessarily have to agree on it, but we’ve established talking points.
If all that matters is that you are right, and I’m wrong, or that I’m good and you’re evil. Then the Petri dish of ignorance gets populated by the microorganisms of hate and mistrust.
And that’s where the reality of the real problem sets in. Judgment is what it is, and although I will stand on the side that says most judgment is not healthy or serving, it also means that most are not all. When groups want to make their rhetoric all that matters, and may God help you if you think or say differently, well, then your judgment is self-serving. And yet for some, that’s ok. They’ll tell you they’re being discerning, astute and clear-sighted of course, and because I see a bracelet, not a shackle, I am apparently not on the right side of the line.
Where in the hell is the critical thinking in that logic?
Yet tomorrow the topic could change, the impact shift. And cue the circus music as those who were proclaiming injustice by others yesterday start playing the hopscotch of hypocrisy today. Critical thinking will be redefined, and beliefs other than their own will be attacked. Leaving any opportunity for open-mindedness and freedom of choice rotting behind the barn or laying in the stagnant water of the downtown alley.
What if the words right, wrong, good and bad were removed from our vocabulary? What if you woke up tomorrow and boom those words were gone? Our ability to judge one another just became much more difficult. You could still have your convictions, but the ability of others to judge them without labels would struggle to exist.
Look, no one experiences this world in the same way. Anais Nin said, “We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” The pivotal point in that belief is this; we won’t always see things from the same point of view because my opinions and yours won’t always align. That doesn’t make me wrong and you right. The opportunity we take to talk about and better understand each other creates critical thought and open dialogue. It also reminds us that the most significant freedom we have is the freedom of choice. And just as important, the opportunity for change can come from this as well. How? It isn’t about changing each other’s minds. It is about better understanding what prompts our beliefs and not making ourselves right, so someone else can be wrong.