“Women shouldn’t judge one another’s lives, if we haven’t been through one another’s fires.” —Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo.
I stumbled upon this string of words as I read my book the other night, just before going to sleep. And it struck a deep chord within me. Because I am a woman who judges.
I judge women, and I judge men, and sometimes I even judge children who are yet to know what they’re doing. And yes, just in case you were wondering, I also judge myself; probably the most of all.
Judgement has always been one of my battles. I expect so much of myself, sometimes too much, and inevitably fall short of my own lofty expectations. Then I hold the people around me to those same expectations; friends, family, and strangers, too.
I think it stems from knowing how great people can be; seeing infinite potential in everyone, but having to watch them—and me—throw it in the trash, or fall miles short of who they can be.
Watching people settle; into jobs, relationships, and lives that are just okay; or worse still, shitty. Witnessing people make bad choices, or treat others poorly; or trample over others for their own gain. Seeing people doing what they can just to survive and make an ordinary life for themselves, but forgetting that they are extraordinary.
I’ve judged myself, constantly, my entire life. For making small mistakes, even the ones that happened decades ago. For not speaking up when I should’ve, and for all the stupid things that poured out when I did. I’ve judged myself for being smart but not smart enough; for being pretty, but not beautiful enough. For not blending in; always sticking out like a sore thumb. For being bullied. For my brown skin, and my bony chest. The list goes on.
I’ve judged my parents, for everything they didn’t do that I needed them to; along with all the things they did do that have left me with scars. But I forgot that they have their own scars, too. And in my heart, I know, they were just doing the best they could with what they had to give.
I’ve judged close friends in the past for being too loud; having drunken, random sex with strangers. and experimenting with drugs, when they were probably just trying to deal with their own pain, or figure out who they were and what they liked. I don’t know. Because I never asked, I only judged. And I should’ve asked.
I’ve judged random women I don’t even know for choosing to get breast implants or be strippers or sex workers or porn stars; because it hurt me seeing them exploited by a patriarchal society that sees women as no more than objects. Some of them told me they found it empowering, while others told me the money was too good to pass up. I just couldn’t understand, and I didn’t try to. But I don’t know them; any of them.
I don’t know if they had parents who loved them when they were little; and tucked them into bed each night and made sure they were safe. I don’t know if they went hungry some nights, or there were strangers sleeping in their house on others. And I don’t even know if they had a home to go to; one that felt safe and warm the way it’s supposed to.
I don’t know if anyone ever told them they had a beautiful heart; or showed them how to love themselves, from the inside, out. I don’t know if they had anyone to guide them in life, and teach them that whatever they choose they should be sure it makes them happy, and comes from their soul. I don’t know if they fell into a life that they honestly believe is better than wherever it was they were before; or they’re simply trying to make the best of their life as it is today.
I don’t know.
How could I possibly know what any of these people have been through, or what has led them to the life they’re waking up to today?
So how can I judge?
I haven’t walked through your fire.
I don’t know your journey, your struggle, or your choices. So I have no right to judge you. And I promise I’ll try not to. I promise, instead of defaulting to judgement, I’ll try understanding and empathising; and even when I really can’t, I’ll still try my best to. Because I’m sure you’re doing the best you can right now, with what you’ve got.