Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why We Should Never Judge: Three Stories

Story #1:
In February, if you remember, I was so sick. In fact, I was so very sick, that I was on the couch for literally three days (four?). It wasn't pregnancy sick, nor a stomach virus --I'm thinking it was the flu/bronchitis/head cold/bubonic plague.
Anyway, let's just remember I was sick. Oh --and Brandon was in London for work. Which left me alone, sick, and alone. And sick.
So, I called my sister. My sister lives in SLC, she works full time, and has two sons. I called and asked if she would be willing to just come down for the evening and help me clean because I had #2's birthday party to put together and host the next day. I begged (kind of). And I expected her to react in the way I would --I figured she would say yes. She would come. She would say yes! She would come.
She said no.
She couldn't come.
It was too overwhelming.
And I was upset.
I couldn't believe my ONLY sister would refuse to help me in my darkest hour. She suggested I call friends, visiting teachers, neighbors, etc. and apologized. But gave stupid explanations (It's late. I'm tired. Blah, blah, blah).
So, you can understand why I would be upset, right? I felt justified. I looked at it from every angle --her husband was home. She was 30 minutes away. They had two cars. I was sick, at home, pregnant, with four children, with no husband, and great need. I had every right to think ill of her, correctly?

Oh, dear reader. I was so very, very wrong.

My sister was in the beginning stages of her own pregnancy (obviously, I didn't know) and was very sick herself. She works full time, misses her boys so much, can't afford late nights, and was pregnant sick.
Of course, I didn't find this out until weeks later, and then I felt horrible. I had spoken ill of her (to my mother, my husband, and a few friends) and I had no right. None. So, I apologized profusely to her (over and over) and I promised not to be so judgemental next time. And how do you think she responded to my awful treatment of her?
Like a Saint.
She forgave me immediately.

Man, I love my sister. I really don't think I deserve her!

Story #2:
Back in November, a girl in my ward announced in RS that she and her sister were both pregnant at the same time. It was right when I just couldn't seem to get pregnant. We had felt prompted for such a long time (and had been trying for a while) to get pregnant, and yet it wouldn't come. And, of course, the sister of the girl in my ward? One of my best friends. She hadn't told me they were even wanting a baby, let alone pregnant!
I was mortified.
I can't describe the pit in my stomach as I heard those announcements. So, later that week, I called my friend and asked her about it. She apologized and said her sister was just doing what she thought she could do (since they announced it to family already). No worries. But I still felt bad feelings towards this girl in my ward for inadvertently causing me pain. I mean, didn't she know I would be hurt? Didn't she realize?
Yeah. Duh, of course not! She was announcing her great news and her sister's. And if I was truly honest with myself (and my friend), this is something I should have been immediately rejoicing with them instead of wallowing in my own pity. But I wasn't. I harbored ill feelings --and even told a few people about it. Pity, pity, pity.

Fast-forward three weeks to Thanksgiving Day. I'm in my parent's house, and I find out I'm actually pregnant! And I had been pregnant during the girl's announcement in RS, too.
Oh, the shame.
But it gets worse.
In January, this girl's water broke. She was 22 weeks along. Her son was born in February and lived only a short while. She and her husband had to endure the worst pain --to see their baby die and to know there's nothing they can do about it.
And I had been petty, jealous, and upset with her.
What is my problem!?
I mourned with her as best I could (leaving her in peace, sending her kleenex and chocolate, etc.), but I don't think I'll ever get rid of the guilt I felt at how I had felt towards her.

Today, I sat by my friend's sister in RS. I noticed that I'm just about as far along as she was when she lost her baby, and I wondered if my protruding belly was causing her pain. I had planned on talking about two great things that happened to me during our RS's "Good News Minute" --Brandon's getting into Wharton, and that we are having a boy --but I was prompted almost immediately not to mention that we were having a boy.
I wasn't told why. I mean, it's fairly obvious, right? She had lost a son.
So, I just talked about Brandon getting into school and skipped the baby-gender announcement (people will find out eventually, anyway).
I know something small like that will never make up for anything I ever felt about this person, and I really hope she knows how much I actually care for her. And if I know her the way I know her, I'm sure she'd be just like my sister: Immediate forgiveness and understanding. She's just that wonderful.

Story #3:
I had a horrid nightmare last night. Horrid. Awful --you know, the one where your child is in a situation and you can't save them and they might die --but you're not sure if they actually die because you wake up in a gasp and start bawling your eyes and out and can't get to sleep for almost an hour and your husband isn't there to comfort you because he's in San Francisco?
You know?
It was about #3. And it was crazy-weird: I was shopping at ShopKo with my parents and children, and they were finished shopping, so they checked out their items, but I was determined to go back for shoes! Shoes were on sale! And I couldn't find them, and I was running all over the store that had several stories and they were all small --like tiny shops on a Main Street in a small town --and I finally found the shoe section when my mom came to me and said, "Come on! Let's go! Everyone's waiting!" So, I left with my mom and as we were walking out the front doors, #3 was "racing us to the van" and ran out in front of two huge Monster Trucks and a Semi (and they looked like Matchbox Monster Trucks, but full size!) and they were parked --but I screamed out his name "NUMBER THREE!!" and he got scared and came to run back across the street right in front of the truck he had already passed, only this time the truck was going and the driver didn't see him...
And I woke up in a gasp.
And then the crying and the crying and the non-sleeping.

Later this morning, I didn't have time to tell Brandon about the dream because he got home just before we were all to go to Church (11:00AM), and my parents were here briefly and coming with us to Sacrament Meeting before heading for St. George right after for the week, etc. etc. and blah, blah...etc.

Anyway, that's the background. Here's the scenario: We drove to church because the wind outside is crazy-cold, and we weren't sure if it was going to rain. After church, we usually meet at the doors before we go out to the cars, but when I got to Brandon (with #1), who was holding #4, #2 and #3 weren't with him. They were outside.
Now, I had never told Brandon "the rule" I made for the kids while he was in London all those weeks in January. The rule? The kids are not allowed to go to the car after church --or leave the building!! --unless a parent is with them.
So, I go outside, in the tornado-winds, and Brandon is behind me, and I see that #1 and #3 have run off somewhere, and #2 is near the big tree on her knees, covered in dirt, bawling her eyes out. Brandon goes over to #2 to figure out what is wrong --I look frantically for #1 and #3 while keeping #4 from crying himself. Finally, #1 and #3 come running around the other side of the building towards us.
I couldn't believe that One: Brandon let them outside on their own and Two: the kids were running all over the place on their own, knowing "the rule!" and Three: What if #3 had been hit by Monstrous Matchbox Monster Trucks in the process!??
Brandon told me to calm down.
I freaked out more.
After we got home, I finally calmed down enough to explain my feelings to Brandon and vice versa and this is what we learned from the experience:
1. I need to talk about rules with Brandon in advance so we can be on the same parenting page (and vice versa).
2. I should have told Brandon about my nightmare of #3 and why I was being so irrational so he could understand my fear.
3. Brandon should have given me the benefit of the doubt even though he didn't know about the nightmare or "the rule".
4. I should have asked the kids why they were running around outside. Turns out #3's paper from Primary blew away in the wind, and so the girls were trying to get it for him --thus #2's fall and #1 going around the corner with him (and they recovered the paper). If I had known their situation and given them the benefit, too, then I wouldn't have yelled. At church. In front of other people.

See, we both jumped to conclusions ("Brandon just doesn't understand!" and "Cheryl is completely insane!"), although Brandon's was closer to the truth... :)

Have you had any experiences where you learned not to make assumptions or quick judgements? Have you ever felt completely justified by every angle in a judgement and found out later that it just wasn't what it seemed? And how do you feel about black licorice? (Just seeing if you're paying attention!)


Julie said...

Black licorice??? My flav-o-rite!!!

Great stories, too. I'm trying to think...I typically am pretty good at giving others the benefit of the doubt. The place I probably am the worst is with Stanton & my kids --- but I'm actually improving on that one, too. The whole content communicating thing has helped so much in that department.

Oh! Recently a friend that I keep in touch with through blogging wrote a post that I felt was a direct attack on a post I had written. It has really bugged me a lot, but I'm trying really hard to blow it off because I don't want to have mean feelings toward her. One attempt I made was to send her something in the mail and to be interested in what's going in her life. I still find myself being a bit nit-picky, but I'm improving. So there, I'm a judgmental meany-face. Great! :)

Sara said...

i hate hate HATE black licorice. it should not even be in the candy aisle!

i've totally had experiences like that but at the moment i'm drawing a blank ... but for sure it happens a lot w/ the miscommunication w/ the husband ... i flip out over something that i THInK he should know/do/say, but we've never talked about it -- y

Annette Lyon said...

Great examples all. And yes, I've both done the judging and been on the other end of being judged. Neither is pleasant.

(Black licorice rocks if it's a good brand.)

Alison Wonderland said...

Black licorice is gross.

And I am the queen of judgemental.

Rebekah said...

Black licorice-grossness.

I love your after-church rule. The stories told about little children being hit by cars in the church parking lot are way too frequent and tragic! But you and your children are smart and responsible. That's comforting.

Yes, I have had WAY too many experiences involving lessons on judging. One experience happend to me out at BYU-I. I was assigned to visit teach a girl who wasn't very friendly. I thought she didn't like me because she didn't respond much when I talked to her and she didn't return my calls(long story short) So, I didn't take the time to go visit her. Then she left school very suddenly. Come to find out, her Dad had cancer during the semester and then died. She had to return home for the funeral. And her roommate/best friend, who I was also supposed to visit teach, wasn't going to church and was struggling with depression after her friend went home. WOW! I still haven't gotten over how terrible and judgmental I was. It makes me want to cry just bringing it up again. Needless to say, I learned a good, hard lesson on judging and gained a strong testimony of visiting teaching in the process.
So, don't beat yourself up too bad. Just learn, repent, and progress.

bythelbs said...

Black licorice? Shudder.

I have been guilty of this so many times that now I try really hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. (Sometimes I'm even successful.) I do it hoping that somebody is doing the same for me.

Ann said...

Thank you so much for withholding your wonderful news about your new baby boy. I'm sure that was hard for you to do, but just know that it meant a great deal to me....and to my sister, who will never know the kindness you showed her today.

And yes, I'm guilty of passing similar judgements only to find out later how wrong I was. I'm trying really hard lately to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I love this quote that I'm sure everybody's heard....there are different variations of it and a number of people have been credited for it, but Plato seems to be the one most people claim said it first. Anyway, it says, "Always be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

I'm trying to follow that. Thank you for being a great example today. Love you.

And ps....I'm glad your children are safe. I would've totally freaked out too. ;) And I love black licorice.

Janelle said...

I had the exact same comment as Annette. Been on the giving and receiving end of judgement. Both stink.

Michelle said...

you're such a good and brave soul to put all these experiences out there. Yes, I've judged and been oh-so-wrong, even when I thought I had all the evidence.

And congrats on your boy!

Amber said...

It's funny because I was thinking about this same thing. Two of my dearest friends did not start out being my dearest friends due to prejudgments. In fact, we quite disliked each other because of preconceived conceptions that were in no way true. How glad I am we worked through it!

April J. said...

Black licorice hater my self!

We have been having problems lying at my house, it is terrible and I am not sure how to get the kids to understand how it makes me doubt them.

I had put some brownies on a plate and enough for each of the kids. I ran some errands then picked up my kindergartner. We came home and they each got a brownie while I was at the computer, they asked and I said it was OK. Later I looked and they were all gone. My oldest who was at school wouldn't get one. I was so mad at the three who could get there own and more at the fact that they lied to me about it. Especially being frustrated with the lying. After my tyraid and lecture it dawned on my that my hubby had come home for lunch and probably ate the brownies. I had to look at my son's tear stained face after promising he wasn't lying and apologize. I am sure I will have many more experiences like this but I am grateful he still loves me!

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

First off, thanks for totally rockin' the humility. I love how you are so open to learning from your mistakes. I'm continually inspired by you. :)

Secondly, it seems to me that the entire decade of my 20's was about learning not to make rash judgments. Being the overly honest & annoyingly open person that I am, I tend to stick my foot in my mouth a lot. I've learned to try to keep my mouth shut and think before I spout off my opinion in public. Still a struggle...

And yeah, I am proven wrong a lot. It's a sucky feeling. But I've also (many times) been on the receiving end of unfair judgments too, and that hurts like no other pain of the soul.

PS- I'll eat black licorice if there is no other candy option.

Susan M said...

There's a quote that gets posted/referenced on the group LDS blogs a lot about someone who was called to a position of leadership in the church, and was given advice by someone else already in a position of leadership. The advice went something like: treat everyone you meet like they're going through the worst time of their life, because half the time, you'll be right.

Don't be so hard on yourself, though. Your feelings were natural. And remember you're pregnant and hyper-emotional, anyway! (I had weird dreams when pregnant, too.)

Summer said...

A whole slew of us sisters got pregnant in our ward at the same time. There was one sister who was due just 3 weeks after me. I never spoke ill of her about anything thankfully. Anyhow, she had her baby at 21 weeks and the baby died. After she came back to church I felt guilty just being pregnant still whenever I saw her. I thought it was certainly causing her pain to se me with my round belly.

It's so hard to know how to act after something like that has happened.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This is a great post that reminds me that me and my problems never are, nor ever should be the center of the universe. We just never know what people think or feel and should more often give them the benefit of the doubt.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

And black licorice is disgusting.