Negative People, Judgment and the Girl I Don’t Like.

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.

Venting Just Makes You More Miserable, Science Shows

You Become the Company You Keep – Choose Wisely!

How Complaining Affects the Brian and General 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.”

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash


Freedom, Power, and 4th of July Wearing a Mask

face mask

I believe people are more alike than different. In the end we all desire the same things. Safety, opportunity, freedom and respect to name a few. I think it’s written down somewhere actually. Something like, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Words we celebrate this 4th of July weekend.

Words from our sacred Declaration of Independence. A sacredness that goes beyond hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks and two hours of beach traffic. Words that are interesting and intriguing document to me. Not just because it founded the country I have been born and raised in and took my 8th grade trip to Washington, DC to learn about. But words that remind me we are more similar than different.  That these are “unalienable rights.” Rights that are given to us by our creator and which governments are created in order to protect.

How exactly to preserve these “unalienable rights” seems to be where the division lies.  See Jefferson’s first draft didn’t say, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He actually wrote, “the preservation of life.” Later, after multiple edits, it was shorted to just say “life.” So, does it mean that our government can then force us to wear a mask to “preserve our life” or does that interference then step on the second enable right of “liberty”? Or, maybe it steps on the third one because wearing a mask sure doesn’t make me happy. (And openly makes me wonder how Muslim women wear burkas when taking off my mask offers more sweet relief then taking off my bra.)

Now more interestingly it was Richard Cumberland (a 17th philosopher) who said that in order for us to be able to enjoy our third “unalienable right” (pursing happiness), it was essential to “promote the well- being of our fellow humans” (Wikipedia quote not his).  This idea actually permeates most cultures and goes by a phrase I was taught as a young child: The Golden Rule. We say it so often we forget the deep intention and power behind it.  First, it’s the Golden one. Like the Golden Child, or the Golden Calf, it is special, unique and the one that stands above all others.  It’s not just on a list of rules. It’s the rule. The rule that stands above all others.  Like gold itself, it is precious, valuable, and worth more than the silver or bronze rules. If you only follow one rule, you follow The Golden One.

It makes me stop and think, “treat others the way I would want to be treated.” Do I always follow that rule? Just yesterday morning I can think of almost five people I drove pass waiting to cross the busy one road that  spans the beach by me. One way in and one way out. With everyone currently home, nothing opened, and nothing else to do, it was crammed so tightly with people that my 18 minute drive to and from yoga took almost an hour. I admit that even though I’ve mellowed out as I’ve gotten older, I was quick to drive right by those patiently waiting to cross the street because I was agitated, feeling claustrophobic and just wanted to get out of there. Not very golden rule like.

I also have a message sitting in my phone from yesterday. It’s a person who is attempting to do a “follow up call” with me. (I’m sure to sell me something.)  I haven’t returned the call. I hate high pressure sales or people who are trained to just ask leading questions to get a yes. (I say this as someone who has taught sales for 20 years).   Being in sales myself, I should be even more quick to return this call and yet the golden rule is no where to be found as that message still sits there. (If this was 1995 there would be a sad red light flashing on my answering machine.)

So, as I get ready to celebrate my freedom this weekend I have to stop and recognize that the golden rule means more here in the USA than probably any place else in the world.  Because here in America I am given my unalienable rights. And with those rights comes great responsibility. Responsibility to follow the golden rule in order to continue to enjoy those rights.

In 1817 William Lamb (a member of the British parliament) was recorded saying, “The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.” (If you don’t know who William Lamb was then you might recognize the abbreviated version from the Spider Man comic book series.)  Freedom is great power.  It’s power over ourselves. Power over our lives. Power over our choices. In a land where freedom is woven into our DNA I don’t think of freedom as power. It’s only when I stop, slow down and think about it that #1 I hear Mel Gibson screaming, “Freedom!” and #2 I understand the connection between my freedom and my power. 

Simply by acknowledging the power (freedom) I have because I was born in the USA, I begin to acknowledge that with that birthright came great responsibility.  More responsibility then those born in totalitarian or communist countries. More responsibility then maybe I deserve.  It’s my choice how I choose to use my power.  Do I use it to metaphorically give my finger to my neighbor? (“Hey look at me exercising my freedom and not wearing a mask because I am FREE! Free I tell you!”) Or do I use to say “Hey I’m not 100% sold that this whole mask wearing thing is actually effective and might be total propaganda but in the slim chance it will make a difference I’m willing to put it on because I might not be high risk but you might be and I’m following that whole Golden rule thing.”  (*Now if someone believes they are physically endangering their own health by wearing a mask, I would encourage you to have a heart to heart conversation with a mom who’s kid went through a bone marrow transplant and had to wear a rock hard mask for 100 straight like Em did at four years old, and then we can revisit that conversation).

It hurts my heart that a mask in our country has replaced the Elephant and the Donkey as our political emblem.  I tend to run conservative. (Unless it’s about victims’ rights or universal health care but that’s a whole other blog).  So I don’t wear a mask because it makes me a snowflake or a sheep. I wear a mask because I understand I was born into a country with great freedom. I understand that freedom came with great responsibility, great power, and my power gives me choices. I choose to follow the Golden Rule. Until N95’s are easily and readily accessible for everyone who wants to exercise their freedom and protect themselves then my choice is to do what I can to help those who can’t protect themselves.

As I am about to celebrate this day of declaring independence, I am deeply pondering my freedom, my power and my choices.  In the end, It’s my conscious I am responsible too. Not my government, not my neighbor, not even my flag.  And for me, because I so value my freedom, I will choose to be responsible with my power, lest one day my freedom is no more.

Happy 4th of July!

*If you like the mask in the photo you can get it on Etsy by LilieMayCo for 14.99