There are so many factors that influence our thoughts, beliefs, actions, emotions, and relationships and while there is so much diversity between all of us and we are very much unique, finding those in your life who accept you just as you are is very important. The other side of that is being accepting of others. Giving to others what we want for ourselves, the feeling that no matter who we are, what we feel, or what we experience, we want to be cared for, loved, and accepted. Not feeling judged or criticized is what we hope for with others. Not being ostracized or “booted” but loved, heard, and connecting with others even though what we think, feel, or believe may be different.
I believe that those who criticize or judge others truly are not taking the time to understand the paths that others have walked. Authentic people, while they also wrestle with judgmental thinking, intentionally listen to others and are present while having a deep level of care for others. Authentic people recognize that they do not have a complete understanding of other people’s journeys or experiences that lead other people to make the choices they make. Even further, authentic people sincerely encourage others to be true to who they are and to allow others to see their true selves.
Unfortunately I think that many people believe if they are accepting of others, it means they are in agreement or are approving of them even if they have different views/beliefs/opinions. So, that belief in itself causes us to not show acceptance and leads to judgement or criticism. Again, I believe it is important to keep in mind there are so many pieces of a person’s journey and experiences that we do not know about. So many experiences and facets of people’s lives lead them to the place where they are and being able to accept them just as they are is demonstrating love and concern for them. I have been so guilty of this myself. Making judgments about a friend who had not been in touch with me for quite a long time. Rarely responding to me when I reached out by phone calls or messages, led to me being angry and resentful and opinionated of the “type” of friend she was being. Authentic people inquire, they ask pointed questions in an effort to understand and they fight the urge to place blame or criticize. When I learned truly what was going on after not handling the situation well at all, I learned she was in a place of very high anxiety, struggling to leave home and dragging herself through her days. The hurt for her and it was not just about the hurt that she was already experiencing but the hurt I caused by my actions and unkind words. It was eye opening to me.
Why the need to judge and criticize? To understand why we make judgements of others or about situations, we need to understand that we naturally do this. In an effort to make decisions about ourselves and our lives, we instinctively respond with judgement about what is going on around us. However being able to take a moment before responding to others is so important. By giving someone the benefit of the doubt and listening to them in an effort to understand rather than respond or react is giving others grace. Isn’t that something we all want? Grace to be listened to, to be loved and accepted.
Judgement also comes when we are unfamiliar with something or are uncomfortable with someone or a situation. There have been times when I have had particular thoughts about homosexuality, until I experienced this on a personal level. Instead of judging those that I love deeply, I decided to take the time to gain knowledge about it through understanding and research and it has caused me to be more open and accepting of others. When we allow ourselves to really discover the details of other’s lives and try to understand from a place of love and care, it truly changes how we view and interact with others.
I believe acceptance of others is also very important during difficult times. Gaining understanding of others and how they cope during hardship is of particular importance because we all respond differently to tragedies, loss, fear, etc. During natural disasters, senseless events and tragedies, and intense political debate, approaching each other with care and love is the most critical action we can take. Understanding that the approach we all take to address our thoughts and feelings related to situations or events will be as unique as each of us are. It is not helpful to label these approaches as right or wrong. While some of us may retreat, others may take action, and many may become fearful, we all desire support, care, and to be accepted just the way we are. With those currently experiencing the fires in California and the loss experienced by recent shootings, we can reach out and offer help. We can take small steps to bring comfort whether through kinds words, encouragement, making a meal, offering shelter, or making donations to agencies assisting these victims. Each small gesture demonstrates such care for others. Authentic people are fantastic about offering this to others and they extend endless grace and love to people in their lives.
What gets in the way of you giving this to others? Perhaps your own insecurities, fear of things that are unfamiliar to you, or maybe even fear of someone else believing you are in agreement with those you extend grace to? Our world needs more care, love, and support for others rather than judgement and criticism. What step are you going to take today to offer that to someone else?