“Don’t you dare go judging people on the choices they make…. until you know the options they had to choose from….” Ruthie Harper, aka Mama Ru
Mama Ru is a woman who adopts you when she meets you, whether or not you ask her to do it. She is full of tough love, but WHOA! she is full of love. Oh, and she is fiercely loyal…. and giving. If she has a coat on, and you need a coat…. that coat is yours.
She posted the above quote yesterday on Facebook. Little did she know it was the catapult for me to take a conversation that has lived in my head for almost 2 years… and put it in this blog.
In May of 2016, I sat at a small table in a little deli, across from a friend wondering how much longer we would remain friends. She was complaining about her brother-in-law, who was in the hospital. I took note that she seemed to have no real concern for him. She was angry. She was mad that while he struggled to breath, needing oxygen, he still wanted to smoke.
I get that. You care about someone and you don’t want them to continue to harm themselves. I understood. But… there was something different here. I could feel it.
Maybe it was a culmination of events that led me to wonder her intent concerning this matter. Maybe I was quick to judge her judgement.
I decided to take the conversation in a different direction. I talked about the struggle of addiction for some. I touched on the fact that for some it was easy to give up smoking. However, for others, they would end up on oxygen machines and still need cigarettes. I talked about genetics. I talked about psychological history.
She wasn’t buying it.
She was reading a book that suggested genetics didn’t play as much of a role as we thought. (I had just read an article on that very book.) Take for instance, weight… If we wanted to lose it, we can. It has nothing to do with our genetics. It was all in our mind and people who were overweight just needed to work harder.
Whoa! Um. I’m overweight… yeah, let’s skip this part of the conversation that keeps playing in my head.
I talked about my mom, who struggles with weight. She has my entire life.
No, this study shows it only comes down to your will power. She was much more focused on her anger toward her brother-in-law than any point I was trying to make, but still… I thought I might burst. Instead, I shut my mouth, (hard to believe, I know) and let her continue. It wasn’t the study or its findings that upset me. It was that she had no empathy for someone sitting across the table from her. She had no empathy for a family member who is in the hospital. She only had judgement.
I had to seriously consider my friendship with her after that conversation. I didn’t want to, because she really was the first person who reached out and became friends with me in my new town. I wanted our friendship to work.
Then, in August 2016, she dropped serious judgement upon a decision I was making with my child, and that was the end. Our friendship ended right there, in the hallway of an elementary school. No words, just a decision in my mind that we were done.
I have often wondered if I responded correctly. I worry sometimes that I judge people too harshly when they are judgmental or lack empathy. I know…. it sounds weird… but I do.
So, back to Mama Ru and her words of wisdom.
Looking at someone who is overweight, and not knowing the options they have had in life, but saying you know they are just lazy… is wrong.
Looking at a smoker and rolling your eyes because you know they can quit… is wrong.
Looking at a homeless person, and saying they don’t try hard enough… is wrong.
Even if you know their story, you are not in their shoes, with the options they have had in life.
Do I wish everyone would make healthy choices?
Yes! Yes! Please, everyone, take care of yourselves! Make all the wise choices you possibly can.
Do we all need to come to the table with the knowledge that we don’t know everything? …with humble hearts only here to help? …with a huge dose of empathy?
Yes! Yes! Please, everyone, find enough compassion to love more than hate… to accept more than judge.
Because, if we can sit across from a person who is making unhealthy choices, and wonder… “What can I do to make sure this person feels loved?”… we will all be better people in the end.
This is a hard task to tackle. Believe me, I know it is so hard to watch someone destroy themselves. I personally struggle with my own demons. I also struggle with having strong opinions on others’ behaviors.
But, man, if our goal is to love more than hate…. to accept more than judge…
…. what a wonderful world this will be.