Its been a week riddled with judgment. In my classes as student, in my classes as teacher, in my life outside of academics. A friend of mine asked me how, as a teacher/counselor, you stop yourself from being reactive. I said, you get comfortable with being uncomfortable…and you make peace with looking at yourself this close, and I held my hand inches from my face. I may not be perfect, but I certainly know my flaws.

Sometimes judgment takes my breath away. As in, I am literally gobsmacked and the things that come out of people’s mouths. My knee jerk is always shock, and then I ask myself why am I surprised and then I consider their context. Being who they are, is it any wonder they hold these opinions? If I had lived through their life experiences, perhaps I would feel similarly.

I think I have gotten better at not necessarily internalizing other people’s judgments. Especially their judgments of me. Probably my harshest critique is my dreamer tendencies. And yet, its something I love about myself. To me, if its the difference in an imaginative beautiful fairy tale that exists only in my heart or a crushing reality bemoaning a Jean Valjean solo…I’ll take my fairy tale.

Developmentally speaking, its quite difficult for most people to find value in others who do not “operate” according to the same rules and values as them. Admittedly, I have been one of those people especially when I was younger…I had a very opinionated moral compass. However, as I’ve gotten to know myself better I can definitely say that it alone has changed my view of the world.

Yesterday I went to a luncheon and we had to write on nametags a strength of ours. I wrote loving. When asked why I said, because I’ve noticed that people are mean or rude or judgmental when they are starving for love. So I try to remember that and always answer every call with love. And truly, that is my continual work.

So in those moments where I am seeing intolerance, judgment, whether its directed at me or not, I take a moment and send love to that person. That comes from being able to love myself, though my own mess, through my own scars, through my own flaws. Not in spite of, but because of.  My mom always reminded me of this. She always says everyone has a story. She never writes people off. Whether she would admit it or not, I can see she is all heart. I’m glad of all the things I got from her that I got her heart. Fiery, passionate, and clumsy but love nonetheless.

It is a true challenge to, when you feel triggered by someone else, think about why. Why does the idea of someone living life differently than I’ve chosen to live mine upset me? I had a reaction to a classmate once where I got angry because she placed women of color in the role of the victim. Something, upon later reflection, I realized I’m venomously averse to. I had to apologize to her for my reaction and explain to her and the class where my anger came from. It was a humbling moment for me. But significant because I took the time to figure out why. Mastin Kipp says, the truth is in the trigger. I strongly believe that. When someone else’s life choices upset you, you’re really upset at your own life. How dare they live audaciously when I did not have the ______(courage/means/access/knowledge/support/love)______ to do the same. The truth about ourselves lies in the things that elicit an emotional reaction from us. Study it. Learn from it. Love from it.

I came full circle with a friend last night after an argument we’d had months ago. He understood what we had triggered in one another and he said, you made me realize its not about right or wrong its just about validating the other person’s experience. It was such an endearing moment, but so spot on. None of us is really a foremost authority on anything, and all of us just want validation that its okay to be who we are. Some need it more than others. But we all seek it from one another. And I guess that’s good. Because it means we need one another. To be accounted for, to exist.

Ubuntu indeed. From Archbishop Desmond Tutu: a person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or dimimished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

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