Friday, January 17, 2014

Choosing NOT To Take Offense

Don't you just hate when people are judging you?

They're doing it all the time, know you. People everywhere are thinking how awful you are. How wrong you are. What a terrible choice you've made.

That raised eyebrow. That comment. That look. That response. That sentence they wrote.


Maybe they're not.

A big part of blogging is reading what other bloggers have written, and participating in conversations they've started with their posts. I read two very different ones this week that got me thinking that these days, people are far too obsessed with worrying about who is judging them and why those people are just wrong wrong wrong and how dare they think [blah, blah, insert whatever the thing was here].

One of the posts was where the blogger was all riled up, because she felt her OB was judging her. Here's the link on BlogHer if you're interested, but basically she felt her doctor was telling her she wasn't being selfless enough when he told her about a potential complication with her pregnancy and what she needed to do about it. The more she thought about it, the more offended she got that he had judged her, and eventually, she wrote a post about it. Of course, she got crucified in the comments from people who thought she had drastically overreacted, which made me feel bad, but I admit, I was also a bit taken aback by the offense she felt that caused her to write the piece to begin with.

The other was one where the blogger wrote a piece on a semi controversial parenting topic - homeschooling. She said right at the beginning that she was not opposed to homeschooling in theory, but she would never choose it for her family, and outlined her ten reasons why. Well she had several people immediately "unlike" her Facebook page, and telling her she knows nothing about this and how dare she, and blah, blah, blah.

(If you want to read that piece, here it is. By the way, the title was not hers - the site she posted on changed it).

The common ground here seems to be people who got freaked out at the very notion that someone was judging them. They took crazy offense and went off on typed rants.

And was the judgement even there?

Well...maybe. But maybe not.

Maybe someone just had a different way they would choose to do things.

But even if it was judgment...did it matter?

Here's the crazy thing. I don't think it does.

You can choose whether or not to take offense to something that someone wrote. Or said. Or implied through that eyebrow raise or glance or any other way they subtly indicated that you were worthy of their judgment.

But honestly, I think that feeling offense is more of a reflection about how you are really feeling.

Here's a silly story that I thought related. Remember last week, when it was negative 78 degrees out or some other crazy temperature? And we were all bundling up?

Well I have an almost two year old who abhors keeping hats on. And mittens. And socks. And shoes.

When it's 14 degrees out those things are not negotiable. Her disagreement meant many minutes of screaming in protest. I'd bundle her up, and as soon as she could, she freed herself from as much outerwear as possible. Obviously we weren't out for fun during these frigid days, but there were things we needed to do.

One particular time, Reagan and I were at the supermarket while Madison was in preschool. I'd managed to get her into a coat, a hat, mittens, socks, shoes, etc, but once she was in the cart, she stripped down. Three elderly shoppers commented some form of oh my goodness it's so cold and that poor little girl needs socks/shoes/a hat while we were there. As I was rebundling her to go back to the car, listening to her wails, one passed by and commented poor little thing must be freezing, she's finally getting her hat. 

I didn't say anything at the time, but I got in the car, called a friend (on speakerphone) of course, and told my story about how all these little old ladies were judging me and judging my parenting and judging my ability to keep a toddler dressed. I was so irritated and frustrated and - yes - offended.

But really, when I thought about it, I had no reason to take offense. It was freezing! I am the one responsible for dressing my toddler appropriately. And for reasons I can't figure out, my toddler was fighting me tooth and nail - and making me look like the bad guy.

The women weren't saying "Bad Mommy!". They weren't necessarily calling me out on inferior parenting, or trying to shame me. They were commenting that it was cold. It was cold. Reagan needed to be wearing socks. She did need to wear socks. I heard judgment because I was judging myself for not having my little girls all snuggled. On a day when I wasn't frustrated I might have laughed and agreed. 

I chose to take offense that day. I chose to be offended. I chose to feel judgment. I didn't have to.

Because - shockingly - not everyone is going to agree with you on everything. There are many instances where I've felt judgment simply because someone tells me they're doing something differently. When they justify their choice, I can choose to feel that they are also condemning mine - and get offended - or I can listen and offer them a similar explanation.

Or I can choose not to engage at all, if I'm not feeling like I want to do a similar explanation that day.

Maybe they were judging, and hoping I would take offense so I'd be primed for a debate. If so, feeling confident enough with my choices where I don't have to is the best response I can give.

But either way, choosing not to take offense is the best choice for me.

Not everyone is judging you.

Not everyone is looking for a fight.

I choose not to take offense.

I choose peace over conflict - be it internal or external.

Go ahead, judge me.

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