We’ll be okay if we just take a minute to think beyond “me.” If we try to be just a little less selfish.
If we drop a kind word instead of judgement. If we slow down, be present, and consider the moment. If we give ourselves space.
It happens so quickly—we feel judgement burning behind our thoughts and words and actions. We see a social media post, read a comment from a family member, or hear a rumor over drinks.
We need to pause and be aware of our thoughts.
I once wrote a vague post on Facebook about how embarrassing it was that someone I knew was posting some pretty controversial views, publicly, for all the world to see. This person wasn’t added as a friend and I didn’t name names, and my own post wasn’t public—so I thought it was “safe.” I wanted to vent about how wrong it all was. I was outraged at the things I had seen them post.
What I didn’t know is that this person suffers from a mental illness. And the more outrageous their posts and viewpoints got, the more likely it was that their medications needed adjusting.
Almost immediately, two other people realized exactly who I was talking about and jumped to school me on my inappropriate post, and rightly so. And when I understood what I had done, how quickly I had judged someone who’s suffering, I felt like an a**hole. Because in that moment, I was one. I didn’t pause. I didn’t think. I didn’t ask questions. I just judged—thoughtlessly, carelessly.
I learned an embarrassing, but crucial lesson that day.
We just don’t know. We can’t know everything.
And if we start doing less of what I did that day, we’ll be okay.
If we stop fighting ourselves, our bodies, and our skin colors, our sexual orientations, gender identities, and our neighbors, well be okay. If we recognize our common humanity, things will get better. If we take more time to be still, to consider what we’re doing, saying, and even thinking instead of being so quick to react, we can make immediate improvements in our own lives and in everyone’s lives.
And this kind of caring—it expands. We become better for it.
First I’m caring about my neighbors and their young kids, having arrived here in Canada not too long ago—so I try to be extra friendly and helpful. Then over time, I care about all of my neighbors, even the grouchy ones, because I’m a grouch too, sometimes. Next, I’m busy caring about the planet, with my reusable coffee cup, my alternatives to plastic wrap, and my “saving water” buckets, because every drop counts—and our children (and their children) will have to deal with our messes when we die, and that’s just not fair to them.
And then I care about animals enough to stop eating them so often, and when I do, I care enough to spend more money and go out of my way to buy meat from animals who weren’t treated so cruelly. And I care about equal rights, and poverty, and lots of things, too many to mention.
I realize this reads a bit like some rah-rah-rah, self-congratulatory anthem, but it’s not meant to be. It’s just easy things we can do. And it needs to be repeated until it sticks.
Even if I’m not dedicating my entire life to charity work, and I mostly live my life like a normal person (who still screws up, a lot)—I’m doing something. I’m doing what I can, little by little. We all are, in our own ways—every single person reading these words has been of benefit in some way.
Do more of that.
So that’s where it starts. That inappropriate Facebook post was one of my numerous “wake up” calls. A careless, foot-in-mouth moment that for me, included some huge realizations about judgement, and kindness, and being mindful.
Just take a moment not to judge someone. To be kind. To pause, take space, be present, and think. To do the right thing when you can.
If we do more of that, we’ll be okay.
Author: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Dillon McIntosh/Unsplash