They aren’t your responsibility. No, really.
So stop thinking about what ‘they’ did or didn’t do, what ‘they’ said or didn’t say, and definitely stop hoping to goodness that ‘they’ hear this sermon, because ‘they’ could really use it. Just stop. I could cite the waste of time this fun little habit is, maybe even make a moral argument that it’s not our place to judge another person (#blahblahblah), but I’m betting you’ve heard it all before–I certainly had and I still did it. #likeaboss
At the beginning, it was a response to an honest hurt. Why did they do that? What did they mean by it? That wasn’t very nice. I justified the silent judging, ever hidden by a pallid smile, and soothed my conscience with the claim that I was just-being-discerning. But around the same time it became a habit, it also became an escape from having to look at myself with an honest eye.
It’s just too easy to believe and live like every challenge to our improvement is external–that one person who gets your goat, the government, family, the accident, a little unfairness here, an offense there. It’s easy to sit back and relegate yourself to a supporting character in your own life story, because a supporting character isn’t expected to do much more than a) be a foil for the brilliant main character then b) maybe die in a heartbreaking way or c) get taken hostage, right when that main character needs a personal reason to get into the fight. #runonsentence
I could lie and say there was a painless way to become the main character in your own life, but I’m just going to rip that bandaid off:
Stop criticizing other people.
If you think Thanksgiving will weigh you down, this habit will take you right back to square one in emotional development. It lets you skim over your own weaknesses, while engorging your awareness of others’. It stirs the pot, raises the heat and, before you know it, you are well and truly cooked, with very little to show for the last few months of your life. It lets you feel like you’re doing something, while nothing actually gets done, robbing you of your own potential.
No good, right? And yet I will be the first to admit that I have never successfully abandoned a behavior-vacuum, then hoped it into sorting itself out. The unhelpful action must be replaced with a better one, as in The Art of Taking Offense. When I feel my heart avoiding uncomfortable growth, by playing judge, jury and executioner, I ask myself these questions:
- What story am I writing in this moment, with this thought? Is it a story of my victimization? Of blame? Bad things happen, good things happen, and you meet a lot of different people. But your actions and reactions determine your journey of growth, and there is always another morning. You can begin writing a story of grace and self-awareness, this very moment. #powerful
- How do I or how have I done that? I know, I know, you never do. You would never be like or act like them. But ask yourself the question anyways. With gentle reflection and some courageous internal honesty, I’ve often found that the ugly shades of my own heart are what I see most blatantly in others. If you let them, people can teach you about yourself without even realizing it, and you can walk away from every experience with deeper awareness.
- How do I need to hear this? Friends, when you come across a lesson, book, article or seminar that ‘they’ just really need to hear and, you know what, you’re going to go tell them right now, in a text you’ll probably regret…ask yourself this question. Every moment that you’re pointing fingers in your head—where no one can even see you—is a moment that you’re not growing. That is a 100% guarantee.
Granted, I am far from perfect in this process of redirecting critical thoughts, but the times that I remember to do it are when I feel most present and thoroughly alive. It’s like a lightbulb going on, when you realize ‘they’ are never your problem. You are. And while that’s scarier and more demanding than being a sidekick, it’s also incredibly empowering in the healthiest way.
Stop criticizing. Lose that weight. It’s not for you. 🙂
Yours, An Introvert at Large