Everyone has a story. Few are brave enough to let their story be heard. The trick is respecting someone’s life choices without needing their story to validate them.
An excellent book about trauma taught me something in a story unlike one I had ever heard. In the book the author shares an exchange with a war veteran that articulates his struggle with alcohol abuse. The veteran eventually explains that he drinks to numb the pain and accompanying symptoms of what is later diagnosed as PTSD.
At the time the veteran wasn’t on medication, he had no tools for management. As the veteran spoke with the doctor about his pain and fear of being abusive to his family I understood how, for him, alcohol was a temporary solution. I could learn this only through listening. Alcoholism isn’t an ideal situation for anyone or best practice when looking for a solution. However, I think it goes to show that we are all doing the best we can with what we have to work with.
This soldier was scared of fatally harming his wife and children. Anyone judging his alcoholic behavior would need a fuller story to respect his decision. Perhaps this man needs help but starting from a point of respect rather than judgment could aid in getting him where he needs to be.
Respect is crucial for meaningful connections. In the abundant contention and disagreements happening as of late, respect seems like the missing factor. How does respect interact with judgement?
It is necessary to judge a situation when building our life. Some situations are not safe or good for our wellbeing. Judgment is our ally here. However, I have also seen relationships ended based upon judgments that don’t seem to serve either party. Judgments that express “I do not agree with how you live your life.It is not my definition of right”. I would add in these circumstances that this lifestyle may just ‘not be right’ for you.
In moments like these, judgment can play it’s classic beneficial role by deciding what is best for us. Perhaps what is best for others, and not for us, is different and also good. Context is relevant.
Perhaps what is best for us is not to be near what may be deemed good for someone else. What a beautiful freedom we have to cultivate our happiest and healthiest environments. This includes exiting toxic relationships with good people, voting for what change we want, and saying no to things that whether traditional or modern are not good for us.
Is judgement a teacher, a protector, or an enemy? I think judgment is a lot like water. Water is necessary to survive but too much of it can kill us. This is true for humans and plants alike.
Humans and plants have much in common. We both need a delicately balanced atmosphere to survive. Where do we thrive? Is a thrive inducing environment the same for everyone?
All I know is my story and my environment but here is what nature teaches me about these questions.
Populations around the world are filled with individuals that have never seen a whale. In contrast, people of frigid climates require whale fat and other similar foods to survive the winter. If we forced one diet on all people it would be safe to assume there would be intense consequences.
With thoughts of judgement and respect swirling in my mind I recalled an experience at dinner that I would classify as embarrassing.
Out to dinner with friends on a double date a mutual acquaintance came up organically. Although I had only met the individual a couple of times my opinion of them was not positive.
As someone mentioned my dislike of the woman I defended it. A member of our dinner kindly asked why I didn’t like them. I stumbled for an answer but had nothing intelligent in response, briefly searching our limited conversations.
If I had taken a moment to search mindfully, I would have found that I didn’t like one comment this individual had said and there my judgment was born. It was not complicated or deeply rooted in any concrete ideas.
My friend admirably remarked that this woman was a remarkable mother. This friend eloquently defended her without offending me.
I was not unaffected by this conversation. A friend unknowingly taught me a valuable lesson about judgments with respect present.
Judgment does not always serve us well. Judgment is an ally only in appropriate situations and doses. Perhaps one of respect’s best roles is to keep judgement in check?
The new ‘heartbeat bill’ making waves on social media this morning was on my mind as I took a walk. On my walk I saw gorgeous flowers in the neighborhood. Neighbors who proudly care for their plant beds display rainbows of variety. I admired the care and cultivation of such delicate art.
As I walked to the edge of our neighborhood I saw a field maintained by nature. Sunflowers stand tall and strong. Any child who has ever tried to bring a sunflower home knows how unwilling they are.
These sunflowers all need the same dry soil and full sun. What a beautiful sight, a homogenous garden. As a native Texan they have always made me smile.
My thoughts turn back to hydrangeas, native to Japan. This flower is quite opposite of sunflowers in that it requires shade, ample water supply, and moist soil to thrive. However, I saw hydrangeas on my walk through the neighborhood.
I wonder what it would be like to stand in Kyoto Japan on the temple grounds to see the summer Hydrangea bloom. No doubt it would be as breathtaking as this field of Sunflowers.
The question I have as I hold these two plants in mind is simple.
Can a sunflower and a hydrangea survive in the same environment? If it were possible, wouldn’t each plant live a half life with dull petals?
I imagine that a thriving environment for each of these plants can be cultivated outside their native land.
Again, humans and plants have much in common.
There are fields of sunflowers and forests of hydrangeas, all are beautiful. The differences we hold can be a treasure or a point of derision.
However, the world I have in mind is not so divided. A community full of people as varied as the plants on this earth. Some of us need full sun and others require shade. In a more complicated light, some of us need (insert heather topic here) to be happy and others feel that (insert heated topic) goes against their thriving environment. Perhaps the thriving environment isn’t going to be as homogenous as a field of sunflowers. What can we learn about living together with such varied needs?
People need different diets, lifestyles, and structures to feel healthy and happy.
This science from nature is on my mind when I see relatives and friends arguing on social media about their different opinions on Afghanistan all the way to abortion. I see sunflowers arguing with hydrangeas. If the goal is to thrive, maybe we need a little more space in our planter when it comes to plants and people needing such different things to thrive.
I am committed to making space. I will uphold respect for choice before I use my judgment.
Can the sunflowers appreciate the beauty of the hydrangea? Can the hydrangea appreciate the sunflower’s strength?
I wish all of you beautiful flowers a lovely day. Do what you will with all the sun.