It really doesn’t take much to change your view on a subject. I guess that what prevents people from doing it more, is that what it does take is often difficult to admit to: That you might not know everything.
About three or four months ago, I was having a conversation with my 16 year old daughter and we were discussing abortion. She and I have opposing views. I’m pro-choice, she’s pro-life. We weren’t so much trying to get each other to “come over to the other side”, as we were exploring why each other feels the way they do. In the end, nothing had changed, we still were pro-life and pro-choice. But I saw an opportunity for another lesson within this one conversation, and so I pounced on it.
“Abby, your opinion may change as you get older and learn more about why people have abortions.” I said. “I’m just saying that you shouldn’t have your mind closed already at the age of 16.” She immediately bit back by saying that I always thought I knew everything, and always thought that my way of thinking was really the only way people should think.
I disagreed. Then I told her how my thinking on one certain subject had come up under my own review lately. As faulty.
“Abby, remember when we had that argument about suicide, and how I always told you I thought people should just suck it up and deal with their problems, instead of running away from them?”
“Oh, yeah! You really pissed me off with that, Mom,” she said. “I know,” I replied. “I was wrong. And here’s why.”
I went on to explain that I had recently realized I had been guilty of doing the exact thing I was always telling my children not to do. The exact thing that made me so angry when other people did it, the one thing that I had zero tolerance for in today’s society.
Judging without knowing.
Social media and the internet have made everything everybody’s business, in a way as never before. We now know the most personal, private and intimate details about our friends and our friend’s friends and our friend’s families. And word gets out instantly, which often means that the news comes first, with accuracy long after. If ever.
So my children were always telling me stories about this kid and that kid who had tried to kill themselves. At the same time, we are always hearing in the news about kids across the country who have been successful.
I had always had a tough and rigid stance on suicide. It was weak. It was selfish. People just needed to suck it up and move on, hadn’t I done that myself numerous times?
And that was inexcusably judgmental of me. I am not inside of that person’s brain. I don’t live with what they have to live with every day. I don’t know a damn thing about that person’s feelings, or whether they can come up with good reasons to live instead of die. I have no idea if there is mental illness there. I don’t know everything.
I was judging without knowing. I don’t want my kids to learn to do that. Needless to say, my daughter was pleased at my change of heart.
And the conversation was eerily prophetic. When it came to pass that my house would be visited by heartbreaking despair, fortunately I was able to deal with my younger daughter’s suicide attempt with more understanding. My mind was already open so I was able to focus on HER feelings, instead of having to grapple with finding my own acceptance. It sure saved valuable time and energy.
So I cringe when I hear other parents state “that will never happen in MY house, I’m going to be a better parent than that”, and I hear that on many different varieties of scenarios. From having a gay/lesbian son or daughter to teen pregnancy, drug use, criminal behavior, etc. I cringe thinking that these parents have woefully closed their minds already, and while that may be okay when your child is 5, 7, 9; the entire ballgame changes with the teenage years.
So don’t do that to yourself. It’s really very easy to learn. The next time something happens and you find yourself judging someone, just admit that you don’t have all of the facts. You don”t know everything. Because unless you are God yourself, there is no possible way that you CAN know everything.
I promise that it is a skill you will value, and your children will value. Heck, if your children learn to do that, just think what a better world we could create.
It really doesn’t take much to change your view on a subject.