Monday, May 20, 2013
“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
We interpret the world through the filter of our own experiences, prejudices, emotions and even our current mood. Given the latter factor our opinion or interpretation, is subject to change at any given time. What was tolerable one day may be the proverbial last straw on another day. Hopefully as we gather experience collecting tidbits of wisdom and useful knowledge along the way, our lens becomes wider and our opinions of the world become more welcoming and forgiving, less inclined to judgement or criticism. This is one of the benefits of getting older. While young people tend to think of themselves as open minded and 'liberal' they also tend to assume that older individuals are stuck in their ways, more inclined to judgement and inflexibility. If only they knew that for the most part the opposite is true. Yes, we are more secure in our convictions on matters that matter and our boundaries are clear were they need to be. We have constructed those beliefs and boundaries after years of trial and error and probably several mistakes along the way so if there appear to be areas of inflexibility they exist for a reason. Naturally there are exceptions to any rule of thumb but from what I can see the people who are rigid and harshly opinionated in their older years were much the same in their youth. It was that stubborn my 'way or the highway' reluctance to empathize that blocked the flow of incoming experience and wisdom that should be the highlight and grace of older age. Once a jerk always a jerk barring some life changing event that shatters the ego long enough to let in the light.
SO when I see people of any age rushing to judgement, hastily dismissive of ideas that don't fit in their world view, I wonder what insecurity it is that maintains that rigid point of view. I realize that this sounds a bit condescending so let me go on record as admitting that I have been extremely judgmental, reactionary and critical at times in my life when I was insecure and unhappy. It was only after learning to accept myself along with my flaws and imperfections that I was able to do the same for others. In fact I tended to be much more forgiving of others than of myself, so you can only imagine if I was looking down my nose at someone else the kind of criticism I put on myself.
It was in one of the lowest points in my life as I was taking stock of Things That Made Me Miserable I realized that my crappy attitude toward others was high on the list. This bitchiness, this tendency to gossip and bad mouth other people just didn't ever feel right. It wasn't a characteristic that I felt was inherently a part of Me, but was rather a bad habit that had emerged as a result of own my unhappiness. It was an attempt to cope with my disappointment with myself which quickly added to said disappointment rather than making me feel somehow 'better off' than those I criticized.
If I picked on someone who was in my opinion worse off than me, it was because I hoped it would distract from my shortcomings. This is a common phenomenon among alcoholics/addicts; there's always someone who drinks more or earlier in the day or diverts more money from their household budget or whatever scale you're using to measure and rationalize your own use.
If I tore apart someone who was doing better than me it was because I was envious but didn't dare admit it. It's preferable to paint success undesirable than as unattainable. 'Unattainable' admitted defeat and fear, fear that I would never be as well off, as educated, as pretty, as smart or as happy as that person seemed to be. Of course my appraisals of these peoples situations were likely to be inaccurate having been drawn on a small number of superficial observable factors. What did I really know about their lives, especially when I was pretty confused about my own life or my potential or even my own character?
Nowadays I still have flaws of course, we all do, but I am far more likely to admit it and to accept them as part of the ongoing process of living and learning. I am not defined by my mistakes and imperfections but rather by the way I choose to respond to them and the same goes for others. I am secure enough in my values and beliefs that I do not feel threatened by others that might differ from mine. Many things can be true at once and my truth is no less valid than someone else's even if they differ. It is when we can accept our imperfections forgive our mistakes and go with the flow that we are able do the same for others. Our point of You is our point of view.
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard