I heard a speaker this week talk about how we are all prejudice. He concluded there was no way we couldn’t be because we only have our own points of view since we’ve only lived our own lives. I disagreed with him because prejudice by definition implies our views bring injury or damage to another and are inherently hostile. However, I do think it means we are all naturally judgmental. We judge things, experiences, and people based on our own points of view which grow from our experiences. After Em’s cancer, I had to come face to face with my judgment. Not only of others, but more so of myself, and is something I still struggle with on a regular basis.
So, when someone asked on the Official Tony Robbins Comeback Challenge group, “How do you deal with negative family members that are part of your everyday life?” I responded quickly and without much thought.
- Love them
- Limit listening to complaining
- Don’t judge
- Thinks of reasons you are grateful for them to refocus on gratitude vs frustration.
When I looked back at what I wrote, I realized these four quick “tips” really encompass so much of what I attempt to infuse into my life on a daily basis.
Love them. My last post was about The Golden Rule. This however, is far beyond a “rule”. It is a “commandment”. When Jesus was asked what were the two greatest commandments (Because lets be real, as humans aren’t we quick to think, “Dude, ten rules? I can’t follow ten rules. Can you just give me like the top two? Maybe I can handle that?”) Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Seems easy. It’s not. Loving people who frustrate me? Loving people who hurt, disappoint or down right anger me? And I have to love them? Can I stick to just the first part? Nope. God doesn’t say love me and then try to love others. Or, love me and if you can love others. Or even, love me and love those who don’t piss you off. In fact, loving God might be one in the same, because the Bible teaches us, “God Is Love”. (For all my Buddhist, non-Christian, Universal consciousness oriented friends that might resonate with you more and guess what? It’s actually biblical! (1 John 4:8, 16))
Limit listening to complaining. This one is easy for me because the science backs it up. There’s a saying, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with.” Sounds cliché but it’s actually true. And if those five people (or even one of them) is constantly complaining it can negatively impact your health.
Don’t judge. Ugh this is the hardest for me. Judgment is so wired into our DNA I think we sometimes do it without even realizing we are judging. Everything from public breast feeding, to the car someone drives, and even now whether or not they wear a mask. The bible tells us by the way we judge someone else we will be judged. (Matthew 7:2) When I find myself judging someone I try to think, “What is it about them that is triggering something in me?” 100% of the time I find it has to do with me and not them. For example, I just was at a party with a woman I judged and quickly decided I didn’t like her. It was her fault after all. She wasn’t friendly to me. Never made eye contact and definitely walked around with an “attitude” (like that judgment right there?). I had to ask myself, “What is it about her that is triggering me?” Because truth be told, there were lots of people I didn’t talk to or make eye contact with so why did she bug me? Want the truth? This one hurts to admit. I was judging her because she was skinnier than me, prettier than me, her daughter was way too cute and to put the nail into the judgmental coffin she had a huge rock on her left hand. Meanwhile I was there at the party alone…as usual. Her “picture perfect life” triggered my feelings of inadequacy and loneliness and I consoled myself with the fact she was smoking so eventually she would be wrinkled and smelly. And I secretly, (and now not so secretly since I’m sharing this all with you) thought her life can’t really be as picture perfect as I am imagining because she is a smoker in 2020, a mom with a family and not a young teen without a fully developed frontal lobe. She must know she is slowing killing herself and obviously is choosing to smoke because of some underlying anxiety. And maybe that’s why she is skinny because she doesn’t eat and smokes instead and probably has body images and continues to smoke knowing it will kill her but doesn’t care because she’s obsessed with being skinny!
And after all that I’m expected to love her????? Dude, I’m still stuck in judging her just to make myself feel better. Because after all, isn’t that what all judgment is truly about? A flawed attempt to make ourselves feel better? It’s much harder to ask, “Why does this trigger me?” because then I need to acknowledge all my flaws instead of someone else’s.
Think of reasons to be grateful for them. This is my go-to-fixes-everything-in-my-life secret. I find once I focus on gratitude everything else seems easier. People who I find difficult to love, want to run in the opposite direction of or have a list of judgment piling high, instantly are seen differently when I focus on gratitude.
My mother’s complaining? I’m grateful for a woman who would do anything for me including move across the country to help me during Em’s cancer and my domestic violence divorce. Giving up her life completely to help me save mine and Em’s.
My sister annoying me? I’m grateful she is the one on full time quarantine care with my mom. Living with her, sanitizing for her, grocery shopping for her, and keeping her company. I openly have no idea how my mom would survive fully quarantined alone in her house if it wasn’t for my sister.
Emily having a fit and driving me crazy with nagging and teenage attitude? (Fortunately my kid is awesome and this doesn’t happen often but when it does….) I’m grateful she’s alive and I remind myself it was her feistiness and I-will-wear-you-down-until-you-give-in that finally made her tumor surrender and say, “Forget it you win! I’m outta here!”
I have even been able to apply this simple strategy with my ex-husband. (Ok this took a few years and didn’t happen overnight.) A man who graphically described to my 3-year-old how he was going to kill me and who I now have a life time restraining order against. A man who still owes me tens of thousands of dollars and who I spent six years in court trying to keep my daughter safe from. That man. I am grateful he gave me Em. I am grateful he forced me to see how strong & resilient I am. I am grateful I learned what I don’t want in a relationship and how to look for “warning signs” going forward. I am grateful for those nights terrified, with my windows locked, because that’s when I grew closest to God. I am grateful for that fear because it made me one day say. “I will not give you one more day of my life. I will not live in fear. If you want to kill me at the end of the day there is little I can do to stop that. But in the meantime, I will not let fear steal anymore from me. I choose not to be afraid.” This same choice is one I am using now with COVID, and I have used multiple times over the last decade. I choose to face whatever uncertainty is in front of me and I choose to do so without fear. All of which I am grateful for.
So, when it can feel like “us vs them” in reality it’s just “me vs me.” People who annoy frustrate, or even infuriate us are really just gifts forcing us to look beyond them and into ourselves.
I guess the Egyptians had it right after all (and later popularized by Socrates), our greatest quest really is to “know thyself.”