A few weeks ago there was a woman on my plane from LA to Chicago. She and her husband were traveling with two boys, the youngest of which was about four… he was also the worst behaved child I’ve ever seen. Before we’d even pulled back from the gate he was screaming. And I don’t mean a whine or a protest, I mean screaming bloody murder about having to sit in a seat when he wanted to run around. His mother had to forcibly hold him in the chair for at least half an hour while he hollered to be released. Everyone on the plane was miserable until he stopped… myself included. But a little while later, when I got up to go to the restroom, I saw why he’d finally stopped… because he’d been given a big bag of gummy worms that he was happily eating his way through.
Friends I will be honest with you, I was disgusted.
First of all, as a strict parent who was raised by strict parents, I was listening to him scream and thinking, Oh heck no! All through takeoff I’m thinking about his mom. I’m thinking that she needs to discipline him better, have boundaries, get support from her spouse. And when I saw that she’d rewarded his bad behavior? And with sugar?? Oh man, I kept thinking, this woman doesn’t have a clue!
Later, at baggage claim, I saw the family again. The four year old was wild. Jumping up on a stopped luggage belt and hitting his brother and running around in circles while everyone stared. What is wrong with his mother? I kept thinking. Why doesn’t she get a handle on him?!
And then I saw her standing next to the luggage carousel… utterly exhausted. She was near tears, looking bewildered and totally overwhelmed. Her husband wore the same shell shocked expression as their son ran in circles around them.
And a gentle voice reminded me, Rachel you don’t know their story.
I was humbled in my ignorance. Maybe this little boy has special needs that make it hard for him to control his impulses. Maybe this little boy is a new adoptive child who’s struggled in foster homes for most of his young life, something I should be graceful about, given what I’m walking into. Maybe this little boy is just badly behaved and his parents struggle to discipline him because their older son was so easy to manage at this age. Whatever the reason, I will never know. Because instead of asking, or offering the benefit of the doubt, I cast my judgement on her before I even asked myself why things might be this way.
Women judging other women. It’s been on my heart for a while. It’s something I’ve tried to wrap my brain around fully, so I could put it into words. I see it all around me in so many different ways and that poor, tired Mama on the flight to Chicago, she reminded me what I wanted to say.
What I wanted to say is that we all judge each other. But that even though we all do it, that’s not an excuse. Judging is still one of the most hurtful, spiteful impulses we own and our judgements are what keep us from building a stronger tribe… or honestly, from having a tribe in the first place. Our judgment is what prohibits us from beautiful, life affirming friendships. Our judgement is what keeps us from connecting in deeper, richer ways because we’re too caught up on assumptions we found at surface level. Our judging has to stop.
The first step is admitting that nobody is immune. For some of us, we judge in little ways: rolling our eyes at the way someone is dressed, or frowning at a badly behaved child in the grocery store, maybe another mother at school pickup has a serious expression and wears a suit everyday and you decide she’s uptight and you two have nothing in common. For others, judging is a bigger problem: berating your little sister because her views are different than yours, viciously gossiping with other women you know about someone else, taking to social media to write hateful things to people you don’t even know, simply because they’ve stepped outside the lines of what you think is good.
The second step is recognizing that just because you believe it, doesn’t make it true for everyone. In so many instances judgement comes from a place of feeling like you’ve somehow got it all figured out, and they do not. I think that judging each other actually makes us feel safer in our own choices. Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right. Therefore every other religion must be wrong. Even within the same religion or heck, even within the same church, there are people who are judging each other for not being the right kind of Christian, Catholic, Mormon, or Jedi. I don’t know the tenet of your faith, but the tenet of mine is Love Thy Neighbor. Not, love thy neighbor if they look and act and think like you. Not, love thy neighbor so long as they wear the right clothes and say the right things.
Just love them.
And yes, another tenet of my faith is that we hold each other accountable… but holding each other accountable takes place inside community and relationships. Holding each other accountable comes from a beautiful place in the heart of friendship that makes you sit down with your friend and ask with love, if they’ve looked at their own actions in a particular light. Holding each other accountable comes from a place of love. Judgement, comes from a place of fear, or disdain or even hate. So be careful about dressing your judgements up as accountability to make your conscious feel better.
I have spent the last couple of years working on this website and cater to women. We spend a lot of time working on and listening to and figuring out exactly what it is women like us want in life. Do you know what it is? Do you know the number one thing that I hear most, get emails about most, get asked for advice on most? Friends. How to make friends. How to keep friends. How to cultivate real, valuable relationships. That’s what women are craving. That’s what they really want and hope for, and if that’s true, we have to start at the beginning.
We start from the beginning and we teach ourselves to keep an open mind. We begin with that first hello or handshake and we stop ourselves from making any decision not founded in fact and experience. We look for commonality instead of seeking out differences. We ignore things like hair or clothes or weight or race or religion or socioeconomic background. We pay attention to things like character and heart and wisdom and experience. And no, it might not be easy, but I promise it will be worth it. Your tribe is out there and if you haven’t found them yet, I’d challenge you to consider that maybe they come in a different package than you thought they might. xo, Rachel