I write books about a cranky, older woman who constantly belittles others about their manners, grammar and general behavior while never quite living up to the standards she imposes on them. I write about her because I, sometimes, am her. I point out, even just to myself, the failures of others while ignoring my own glaring shortcomings.
As an example, when I'm driving and someone cuts through a parking lot, not following the arrows or right of way, I get so steamed. But then I take the same liberty while making some excuse for my reasoning being different and better.
Sadly, those of us who do this often pass it on to our children through example.
We have to remove the beam in our own eyes and forgive the motes in others.
Here's how to recognize this ailment, and then begin to stop it. Ask yourself these questions when you feel some bitter thoughts coming to mind about someone else:
What might his reason be?
When we see someone speeding, could he be rushing a sick child to the hospital? When we notice someone being a bit snobbish and standoffish at a party, could she have just had a terrible fight with her spouse? There are so many times that, if we knew the reasoning behind someone's action, we would feel ashamed of our own judgment. Try this, instead: "Gee, he must have an emergency to be driving so fast. I hope that everything's all right. Perhaps we could offer up a prayer for him." "Mrs. Smith is not being her usual self. I think I'll go talk to her and see if I can help her feel better."
Is it any of our business?
But the truth is, it isn't our business why a person did what she did. We can try to analyze it, but we are all here to work out our own salvation and the way others conduct their lives is not our concern, but rather we should concentrate on our own thoughts and behaviors. Of these, harsh judgment is one of the most contemptible. Try this, instead: Respond honestly if you are asked about how you feel by the person committing the offense, but try to avoid jumping in with an automatic knee-jerk response. Stop. Count to 10. Then go on to the next very important question.
Are we guilty?
Have we ever been guilty of saying or doing the thing we are being so harsh to him about? Is that, perhaps, the reason we get so upset? We are a little angry or disgusted with ourselves, and if we judge her we can pretend we would have never done it? So many times, with me, that is the case. Try this, instead: Close your eyes (unless you are driving!) and take a moment to ponder. "Have I done this very thing? Am I as guilty as he is, but manage to somehow find a reasonable excuse for my own shortcoming?" If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, then it's time to knock it off. Stop considering yourself a special person with special circumstances. Think about the example you are being to your own family and explain to them, without holding back, how you are guilty and trying to change.
What else can I think and, more importantly, talk about?
Now that you are finally able to recognize that you are having these thoughts and that they are wrong, it's time to actively work on correcting them. Do this not only for yourself but for the offspring who are bound to follow in your footsteps. Rather than spend the whole of dinnertime speaking ill of all the stupid things you have seen stupid people doing stupidly, feel free to mention them, but explain that you are bringing it up so that everyone can discuss alternatives. Try this, instead: "You know, I was at the grocery store in a very long line. There were a lot of people behind me. When they called someone up front to help, the people behind me ran up to the head of that line. I think they should have taken the next person in line. What do you think? How would you have handled it? Here's what I did. I decided that instead of getting angry and being rude, I would use the extra time I had in line to ask the person in front of me what kind of day they were having, distracting them from the negative situation." You have now been a real grown-up and given your family a very positive way to deal with a very negative situation. Allow them to give their responses and then discuss.
There is ugly all around us. People being silly and ignorant. But that doesn't mean we have to join in the chorus. We can live "rightly" and show our families how to do the same. We can never underestimate the powerful example we are to them.