It is easy to judge another or think we know how someone else is feeling. However, usually we don’t know what it is like to walk in another’s shoes until we experience certain situations ourselves. Therefore, offering platitudes or making judgments about someone’s coping abilities is not the most helpful response. However, offering a nonjudgmental listening space can work wonders when someone is struggling.
This point was driven home to me this past weekend, when I received a phone call from two different friends who were experiencing some situations that I had gone through several years ago. The calls were so affirming and proved how we don’t fully understand something until it personally happens to us. Fortunately, our experiences can turn into gifts for others who encounter the same situations we do.
For example, one friend called to say that she now knows what it is like to have severe back spasms, and wanted to tell me how she now understands more fully what I went through, when I had them many years ago.
Unfortunately, she recently had an episode of these strong muscle contractions for the first in her life on vacation, and was feeling the excruciating pain from it. She has had back pain in her life before, as many of us have, but nothing like this.
Spasms are debilitating, and stop life in its tracks. In this condition, you can’t walk, sit or anything else but lay in bed in sheer agony. Given my experience with it, I could totally empathize and hear her fully without offering meaningless commentary or judging her handling of the situation.
My other friend and his wife had recently moved to another state due to a job offer and though the job was a great opportunity, the state they moved to is not to their liking. Therefore, they are making plans to leave there, and return to their original location in the next year. He said he now understands what my husband and I went through when we moved to a state we didn’t connect with.
At the time, he didn’t quite understand our lingering discomfort but now identifies with the unsettling feelings that arise when you are continually uncomfortable in your new surroundings or it is missing many things that you love. I could definitely appreciate his situation and understand why he wants to return.
People relocate for any number of reasons but sometimes after we move, we discover it isn’t what we thought. We may realize we gave up more than we got from the experience or we didn’t think we would miss certain things as much as we do.
For example, a person who loves the ocean will likely come to miss it terribly, if they live in the desert. Likewise, a person who loves to ski down the slopes in a winter wonderland will probably feel lost without snow any part of the year.
Fortunately, we are free to change our minds on any number of decisions we make and don’t need to feel like we failed if it doesn’t go as planned. Part of living life to the fullest is trying out different activities or places to live; knowing that some will work out for us and some will not.
Therefore, it is good to ignore certain comments from others or from within our own head, that suggests we are indecisive, or hard to please. Staying put in dissatisfying jobs, houses, geographic locations or relationships is often caused by the belief that the ‘grass is not greener’ somewhere else. Granted, sometimes that might be true but sometimes it is greener.
Many of us who have changed careers, relationships or living arrangements are experiencing great joy in the change which debunks the idea that we are foolish to expect anything different if we make an adjustment.
We all have the right and the freedom to seek out people, places and things that are more to our liking. Instead of feeling wrong for doing so, we should embrace how healthy it is to pursue a life that is in alignment with what brings us joy; rather than staying stuck in negative situations and forcing ourselves to accept it.
Certainly, some things do require acceptance but others require action to make the changes we want to make. We can still choose to be happy in the process of making desired changes but not avoid making them entirely.
Usually, our shared life experiences help us become less judgmental on how someone should act in a given situation that we’ve experienced ourselves. However, the goal is to extend that same nonjudgmental attitude to those who are living in situations we don’t know anything about; as judging never helps anyone but having more compassion does.
Refrain from asserting we know what another should do, feel or say and make this a judgment free day instead!