Standing out in my mind, is the utter hypocrisy we exercise when faced with other people's issues – foreign to us, quick to judge, yet if it were happening to us our views would be quite different.
The instance I want to share with you is that of a married couple. They have been married over 20 years. To my knowledge, their marriage was tumultuous for at least fifteen of those 20 years. Violence, hurt, emotional and physical abuse filled those years for the wife, all while she tried to keep things together for their son and daughter. Looking in these days, one would probably say, 'they stay because they want.' Well, maybe.
It also could mean that there was no way out.
I know what that is like, having observed it in my own home. Watching the kind of abuse that now resembles a Law & Order episode - every single day. It can numb you, or it could make you stronger.
It made my mother weak, dependent on another to leave one situation and go into another. It affirmed my resolve to never get drawn into that situation. We each cope differently.
But I was talking about another couple...and judgment.
While having what I thought was a reasonable conversation with someone older, mature, also married for a number of years, the topic of the other couple came up. It was a casual observation of the wife’s new venture, and I spoke up about my admiration of her work ethic, and her ability to overcome hardships to gain success.
With one snarky comment, my companion’s tongue unraveled. It was interesting to hear her views on them now, as opposed to back then. Now that the wife has a new leash on life, and her husband has received the help he needed to control his alcoholism (and ensuing violent tendencies) – through her efforts no less – her carefree personality and zest for life somehow makes her a pariah. At least, to the person I was talking to.
She made some derogatory comments about the woman’s current behavior, which (gasp!) included her going out on dates with her husband, dancing and fun, drinks and dinners, and an independent spirit that meant if she wanted, she left of her own volition. She has friends, and enjoys her time with them. In essence, she is a normal person. But, somehow, now that she’s happy and has overcome the terrible early years of her marriage, she’s a ‘handful’, someone to keep an eye out for.
What stood out the most when I was listening to this was the fact that the person tearing this woman down was herself a woman (whom we shall call Ms X). During the abusive relationship everything was somehow, right – according to X? When she was beaten down, trodden upon, and caged, kept away from living a life of her own – it was better? Perhaps, it was safer that way – to know that while X lived a life that didn’t involve doing things for herself, the other person she judged was also being held back.
So I asked my gregarious companion what she thought of the years before. What had X said about the woman back then? Had she thought to intervene, give her a shoulder to cry on? What did she think of the person who took some of her best years? How was it okay what he did?
She couldn’t answer.
That’s because we find it perfectly okay to look the other way when someone is in trouble. “Stay out of it. It’s none of your/our business,” we tell each other. Then when the situation continues, and becomes routine, we start the judgment. “Well, if she/he/they didn’t want to be in that situation, they would get out.”
So, when they do get out, it’s frowned upon? Somehow, making the best of one’s situation after overcoming all the judgment, whispers, and twitching curtains – we start passing comments that sound remarkably similar to the past ones. We are not happy if we’re not tearing each other down. And it’s exhausting – and does nothing for good karma. I said as much to Ms X, in the process perhaps passing a few of my own judgments. But, it made her quiet, and I hope it meant she was thinking- not only about the other woman she had spoken of so harshly, but also of herself.
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