Last week, I went to Wal-Mart to exchange some workout shorts I had gotten in a wrong size (sigh…postpartum weight problems). I considered myself lucky because there was only one person in line at Customer Service. However, looking over at the actual registers, there was a long line wrapping around all the registers for the self-checkouts and the “20 items or less” lines. I was glad I didn’t have to deal with that.
As the man in front of me was being helped, an older white woman who had a slight European accent came up and asked the young employee to talk to whoever was in charge of the store. Immediately, I rolled my eyes inside my head–probably an irritated senior citizen going to complain about a product and wanted to talk to the higher-ups.(First way I was being judgemental)
While she waited, she turned to me and said, “Tell me, what do you think happened to our rights? Am I not to be treated well? I’m a citizen here and what happened to the rights of the citizen?”
My eyebrows raised. Where did that come from? Quickly I turned to look back…most of the cashiers were of a minority, as were most of the cashiers in line. Because I now live in Bible-belt, gun-wielding, conservative Texas, I assumed she was talking about the employees not being white or speaking proper English. (Second way I was being judgemental)
Immediately I got irritated at her. She was a racist and probably supported Trump. (Third way I was being judgemental…and to my conservative friends…the following was just my initial train of thought. It was judgemental, assuming, and stereotyping. I hope I don’t offend any of you!)
I looked at her and quickly said, “Ma’am, it sounds like you are a conservative and I am a liberal, so I don’t think we’d agree on anything.” (Fourth way I was being judgemental) And turned my head back to my kids. She said under her breath, “Ugh. Of course not.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the young employee helping the man in front of me squirm. She was Latina and put her eyes down. I felt sorry for her to have this woman judge her and other like her who worked at Wal-Mart.
Then, the older woman said, “Then tell me. I want to know. I’m a citizen. I came here and now I’m a citizen. I know my rights. When they take the system and the system is gone, what will you replace it with? What the Soviet Union does?”
Really? Are you calling me, a liberal (who still has conservative moral and religious views), a communist? And, did you just speak of the Soviet Union in the present tense?!?! (Fifth way I was being judgmental)
But, it was my turn to be helped.
I turned to her and scoffed, “Ma’am, the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore.” Then ignored her and focused on the employee.
As the store manager was walking up, I heard her say, “That’s what you say.”
Rolling my eyes again, I said to the poor employee who seemed very uncomfortable, “I’m sorry. Thank you so much for your hard work.” She quickly exchanged the shorts for me and I left, my head held high.
On the way to my car, I was still broiling on the inside. Had I just had my first racist encounter? I couldn’t stereotype her with some derogatory American stereotypes because she wasn’t American-born. But, how could an immigrant from Europe, where many countries are socialist, be so racist? I definitely chewed her out harshly in my head. (Sixth way I was being judgemental)
Then, a thought came to me:
STOP IT. Be positive and don’t judge.
I listened and tried my absolute best to do so. I didn’t know the entire circumstances. Maybe another shopper or a cashier was extremely rude to her. I was being extremely judgemental of her, regardless of her reasons for her comments. Just because a person is a conservative doesn’t mean they are selfish or elitist.
Our apartment complex isn’t very stroller or wheelchair friendly when it comes to the parking lot. There is a ton of assigned, covered parking, but you have to pay quite a bit. So, we use the open parking…most of which are far away from the buildings. But, there are three prime spots right by the stairs that lead down to my apartment. Everyone fights over these. They are only open in the day when everyone is gone at work. But, if I get back from errands or the park anytime after 4:30 PM, I lose my chance of getting it.
I love having that spot because I have two little kids (and groceries, diaper bags, shopping bags, strollers, etc) to carry in. I get annoyed when I don’t get it during the day, especially since many who live in our building have school-aged kids, if kids at all.
One day, when I was packing the kids into the car to run a 10 minute errand, I noticed a car stop. They had their blinker on.
They wanted my spot. My spot. I was the one with the little kids. I deserved that spot. They didn’t need it. A grown-up can walk further than toddlers can.
Intentionally, I took my time strapping both kids in. I slowly set up a movie for Rhys. I picked up the trash off the car floor. But, that car was patiently waiting for me to leave. I did everything I could think of to bore off this person. Nothing worked.
Finally, I got in and turned on the car. As I backed out of the space, and passed the car, knowing full well that the only open spot would be gone when I got back, I shot a nasty glare at the driver.
I immediately regretted it.
I recognized the driver and she gave a shocked, hurt look back. This was a mother, like me. But, more than that, this mother had infant twins. And she lived on the third floor. I have seen her painstakingly lift a big diaper bag, handfuls of grocery bags, and two infant carseats and carry them up all their stairs. She made me grateful I had a toddler who could walk himself and that I lived on the first floor.
She didn’t deserve that glare I gave her. She deserved that coveted spot more than I did. As I drove out of the parking lot, I heard a voice again.
STOP IT! You know better.
It may surprise you, but I’ve been told many times by those close to me that I’m vindictive, judgemental, and can sometimes just be downright mean.
I never fully embraced those adjectives–I always rationalized my actions.
But, I’ve come to realize this past year, with actions and arguments I’ve had with people, with being judgemental morally and when it came to stupid arguments about little details of shows or books, and especially with politics… the hatred spewed on both sides (including me) during this past presidential election, and with other experiences, I have to STOP IT.
My sister-in-law told me that she actually unfollowed me on her Facebook feed because of the types of posts I was liking and sharing. My immediate reaction was of annoyance–I knew she was a conservative and voted for Trump. I was disappointed in her for supporting him and his administration and not seeing the other side–the more tolerant side that cared about education. She is a Mormon and a teacher.
But, then I really thought. I know her. I know her personality. I know who she is. She is not my enemy. She is not allowing herself to be ignorant. She doesn’t actually like Trump, she was just voting her conscience.
I thought back to those posts. While the bottom line was what I agreed with and factual, what politically driven post on Facebook is going to be 100% rational and unbiased. I apologized to her. Since then, even if I agree with a political post on Facebook, I try to skip right by it (unless it has to do with education–that is a soap box I will always get on).
My friend, Autumn, from Stay Gold Autumn, recently wrote a post called 5 Ways to Remove Toxicity from Your World. She was very open, honest, and vulnerable in that post. And it got me thinking…was I being toxic online politically?
After these two incidents–the parking lot and Wal-Mart–I started thinking if I was being toxic myself–on the outside and on the inside.
A lesson Dieter F. Uchtdorf (my absolute favorite LDS leader) talked about judging and being toxic.
Jesus taught: “Forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not … [stands] condemned before theLord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin” and “Blessed are themerciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”
Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.
But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in ourcase, we have all the information we need to hold someone else incontempt…
This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.
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That’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try my absolute best to STOP IT and be kinder and have more gentle, less judgmental thoughts to others. I don’t know their situations and I shouldn’t assume. I’m not better or more right than someone else. So, my goal is to from now on, put on a smile, and have it be a real smile, full of love for everyone else.