News travels fast, both good and bad. It is displayed across the Internet in memes, videos, blogs, articles and status updates. Not only is information being shared at a faster pace than ever before, but people also leave thoughts and opinions in the nice comment sections provided on pretty much any form of media. Some advise not to read these comments, but I can't help it. I am genuinely curious to see what people think. There are always those who shock me, however, with how brutally honest and just plain rude their comments are, especially to people they don't even know.
Gone are the days of "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all." Now, it is more common to point out faults and flaws in people. There is nothing wrong with freedom of speech, but what happens when words go from valid opinions to daggers of unfair judgment? Is this necessary? Is it constructive? This epidemic of rudeness is not limited to comment sections online, but it is found even in the subtle expressions given by strangers, sarcastic comments under breath, road rage... While I think it is great that people are not afraid to share opinions, I wonder how all of this is affecting our society.
As soon as I became a mother, I couldn't help but feel judged all the time. I was practically in tears during one horrible plane ride. The plane was full, my family had been stranded for a night because of inclement weather and we just wanted to go home. While this wasn't our twins' first plane ride, they were still new to traveling. There is only one lap child allowed in a full row due to the number of oxygen masks, so my husband and I could not sit together. I found a seat next to two women. My son did well on the flight, with minimal movement and only one or two outbursts, but with the reactions I was getting from the stranger next to me, you'd have thought he was a holy terror. Every movement brought a dirty look and heavy sigh from this person, and she even made a couple of judgmental comments to the woman next to her about how I was handling my son.
Looking back, I wish I would have stood up to this stranger and said something to defend myself. I wish the woman would have known what we had been through before judging me so quickly. I would have loved to have sat next to my husband and other child and not bothered her, but that was not an option. At the same time, however, I also felt like I shouldn't have needed to explain myself. Traveling with a child is hard, and if people had more tolerance and patience, putting themselves in others' shoes, life would be nicer for everyone.
Many judgments are not obvious. In my family, there have been a lot of tantrums in public places, and I've practically felt all the eyes on me, waiting to see what my reaction is going to be toward my children. It doesn't matter what I do, there will be someone who does not approve of my methods, and probably some who do. We are all different. That is what makes our culture great. But we could do without the hurtful looks and negative opinions. It's easy to pass judgment, but much more helpful would be a "You're doing great" or "I know how you feel, keep up the good work." Even just a smile would be nice.
Admittedly, I am not innocent from judging others. There have been several times I've felt myself form an opinion about a mom on her phone while her children are playing on the playground or assumed that the man holding the homeless sign is making more money than I am. I know it needs to stop. I cannot form opinions or make assumptions about someone who I don't know. None of us knows each other's stories, the things we've gone through, the sorrows we've felt and happiness we've experienced. No one has the right to judge based on appearances or brief encounters no matter how obvious faults may seem to us.
Growing up, I used to play a game in the car with my mom. Whenever someone would cut us off, speed by or blatantly break a traffic law, we would make up stories as to why. We'd say, "Maybe they have to use the bathroom really bad," or "Maybe the wife's water just broke." We made up some pretty crazy stories, but it helped us not get upset and instead show compassion and understanding toward strangers. It would do me good to do this all the time.
The most important thing to remember is that people are not perfect. I think our society expects perfection from everyone, and when someone makes a mistake, they are bashed heavily for it. We are all in this life together. Why not be cheerleaders instead of critics? Let's get back to basics and remember those little life lessons we were taught as children: treat others the way you want to be treated, put others before yourself, be kind. The worst things that could happen would be that we'd brighten someone's day or even make a friend.