The other night at the dinner table the conversation pivoted from benign sharing to a discussion about judgment. I thought she’d put on a few pounds, uttered in the isolation bubble of our festive table, about an actress, triggered a dive into body shaming and sexism. It started with a jab back about personal comments gestured at famous people. People we knew nothing about.
Whether I say it out loud, or leave it inside my head, I judge. It’s something I don’t like about myself. It’s a flaw. It’s my nature. I doubt that I am unique. I take comfort in this character blemish in knowing that I rule more harshly upon myself than I do upon others. So there.
The courageous souls who have spoken out against chastisements about physical, mental and emotional imperfections are tackling the narratives that bully, shame and create inequities. They are challenging the narrow-minded, elitist definitions of normal. They are insisting upon respect and acceptance.
Ted Lasso considers the opposite of judgment to be curiosity. Sized up by a combative patron in the pub as a naive, unsophisticated foreigner, he is challenged to a dart match. And the stakes are high. Ted accepts and to those who delight in the underdog, he wins the match and secures the valuable winnings. All are shocked. Except for Ted. He explains that had the opponent been curious, he would have found out that Ted had been playing darts from the age of ten. He could throw a bullseye from across the road.
A simple lesson, spoken with the lazy southern drawl that gives me time to digest the words, had me reflecting on my inventory of stereotypes. The fodder for unfounded decisions, quick conclusions, and toxic internal commentary. In addition to keeping my mind small, they act as a measuring stick I prop up beside myself. I stay suspended in an unpleasant thought. Or a falsehood.
Difficult human experiences have made me inquisitive in areas of my life. Declaring my alcoholism and quest for sobriety wrenched me wide open. I could no longer shake my head at the over-imbibing I witnessed in others. I could no longer keep myself separate from that of the trench coat sipping from a bag on the park bench. I could no longer feign superiority over those in 12 step programs. I struggled early in recovery with the stigma of alcoholism. Is it a mental illness, mental disorder, or the choice of a flawed individual? Addiction evolves when there is no longer a choice. Please remember that.
I wholeheartedly share Ted’s notion that curiosity is the only way through judgment. When our dinner table conversation shifted, it was because the disparaging comment was met with the accusation that we “don’t even know them.” We lacked an interest in the person’s human condition. Through my own journey I know that concern and inquiry open minds, soften hearts, and create connections. Stereotyping and rulings are impossible to maintain when there is deep understanding.
As I look forward to the turn of the year. To the opportunity to set intentions. To become a better person – I will channel my energy toward curiosity. I will engage in gentle inquiry. I will seek to understand. The judge will stay in the dark.
At least, that is my experience.