Monday, April 25, 2016

Look in the Mirror

One of the more recent problems caused by the social media takeover of culture is the idea that we are the center of our own universe. A side effect of this unusual philosophy is the "you have a problem" syndrome. Of course, this particular issue is not a new problem, but it certainly seems to be getting worse. Unfortunately, I've found that this syndrome occurs just as frequently in those that are not attached to social media, perhaps as a defense against the you-centric philosophy of culture, but perpetuating some of the same mythology.

I can't tell you the number of conversations I've over heard (see my previous post on Life as a Reserved Extrovert to find out why I am listening in on conversations without necessarily participating) where someone is completely bashing someone for X activity without realizing that what they are bashing someone for is incredible similar to what they are currently doing.

Let me give you a few examples of what I'm talking about, to see if you've noticed this in your world.

  1. "I'm voting for Trump, because he's the only one who's honest about what he's doing. He's not really as bad as he seems, he's just putting on an act of being so abrasive, he'll calm down once he's president."
  2. "People are so intolerant that they won't even bake a cake for a wedding for somebody they don't know just because it's two guys. I mean who do they think they are to refuse to do business based on their personal religious beliefs like that? Hey, I'm so glad that so and so cancelled their concert/business/porn site for North Carolina because that HB2 law just goes completely against my personal beliefs, can you believe the governor hasn't changed his mind yet, with all the money they are losing over this?"
  3. "Those anti-vax people are a bit crazy, I mean don't they do any scientific research on this stuff? Did you see the natural, organic, seaweed based sunscreen on sale at Whole Foods for $30? I bought like 3 cases, because regular sunscreens are full of toxins, I can't put that on my baby."
  4. "As a Christian pastor, we really need to find out why people are leaving our church so that we can convince them they are wrong. We are a very inclusive church, so they should never have grounds to disagree with us and go to a different church."
  5. "Women can do everything men can. I mean except for sports and math, they are pretty equal."
Did you catch the problem? We're so convinced that our "way" is the only right way, because everyone on Facebook or in our small circle of friends "likes" or "agrees" with us, that we don't notice the ways in which we are blind to our own problems. Now, I'm not going to claim that I've never perpetuated one of these (probably closest to # 3 myself). However, I try to think things through from all sides and think before I speak.

The Bible says in Luke 6:41-42 "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye."

So, realistically, how do we stop judging others and look more honestly at our own behavior? Here are a few tips:

  1. Stop thinking about whether other people are judging you. I will admit that I had a BIG problem judging other people, especially around the ages of 14-21. There were several factors that needed to fall into place to stop this negativity, but the biggest and most profound was ignoring or not focusing on what other people were thinking of me. Especially as a young woman, we often feel like people judge for everything from our clothing choices, hairstyle, or attitude, and we may react with defensive and judgmental tactics ourselves. Now, as a young mom, it gets even worse, as we may feel we are judged on our parenting style, job (or choice to stay home), breastfeeding and more. I noticed that when I was able to ignore what I thought were the judgments of other people, I suddenly found myself less likely to judge them (and vice versa). As I grew into this ability, I realized it was pretty foolish of me to care so much about what someone else was doing in the first place.
  2. Set up accountability partners. My husband is my biggest source of accountability. If I'm in the car with him and make a comment on someone or something around me, he will call me out on it. He's not doing it to be rude or mean, he just points out, "That's your J coming out again." and I take some time to think over what I've said or how I've reacted to see whether it was truly accurate or just a snap judgment.
  3. Look in the mirror. Think through all the times when you've said or done something similar before you get offended. Sometimes, people say things completely without thinking. However, rather than focus on what other people say to offend you and think back to things that you might have said or done without meaning to offend someone. For example, I had a conversation with an acquaintance who doesn't have kids yet about how difficult it was to give birth, and how it's a lot different driving 20 minutes with kids in the car. Then, I thought late about the fact that I don't know for sure whether or not her lack of children was a choice. Maybe they have been trying and unable to conceive, or had a miscarriage that I didn't know about, and I could have so easily offended this person without even knowing it. 
  4. Pray and seek help if needed. If you are truly experiencing anxiety that you can't control, or find yourself in a deep depression or uncontrollable rage or if you have sudden unexplained changes in your mood, you may need to seek counseling and get a medical opinion. If you are just struggling with this issue of judging, I suggest you read and study the Bible, and pray - seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I can truly say, that if it weren't for the intervention of the Holy Spirit, I would not have addressed this issue of judging in my life when I did. Some things, we just can't do on our own, but anything is possible with God.
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