So often we make ourselves the police for how someone else is behaving. We know what we would never do what they’re doing, so it must be wrong. If only everyone were to behave like us, the world would be a better place. Surely everyone can see that?
I’m sure that by now, you know that can’t work. First, if you were the moral genius you would need to be, you’d already be leading a major world religion. I’m guessing you’re not, although if you are and you’re reading my book, thanks, I’m honoured, and please consider telling your followers that a book on being beautiful, loved, capable and good is exactly what they need to reach enlightenment. I have a mortgage to pay.
Besides that, even if you didn’t end up leading a major religion (and who has the time for that these days?), if you were the authority on the best course of action a human being could take in every possible situation, your life might look a little better than it does. I’m not knocking your effort, but we seem to think that other people should act like us without admitting that if they did, they would be as indecisive, erratic and generally un-superhero-like as we usually find ourselves. We’ve spent enough time talking about how everyone is different, and how their experiences and skills and strengths and weaknesses are different, to k ow that it wouldn’t make sense for everyone to try to be you. You know that you’re not the perfect answer to the question ‘so what should I do with my life?’. But this is not even the biggest issue we could talk about
More important that whether or not you are qualified to be the judge of everyone is what it does to you when you start acting like one. It’s not even about how it makes everyone else feel about you – annoyed, at the very least. Inside you, when you are the judge of the world, a lot of things start to happen to you.
One thing I’ve noticed is that your judging muscles get a constant workout, which means that they keep on getting stronger. Pretty soon it’s a reflex. You won’t be able to turn it off. And this means that you have no rest. Everything annoys you until eventually finding pleasure in anything good becomes harder, because you can always find a problem with it instead.
The other thing that happens is that your opinion of people becomes tainted because you’re always measuring them against some ideal standard and finding that they fail. As would you, of course. But in your mind, you always pass your own standards. So you’re left with the sure knowledge that you are surrounded by idiots. You elevate yourself unhealthily in your standing and get a sense that you are superior. And from there comes entitlement, disdain for others’ opinions and a generally skewed idea of how you fit into the world.
I’ve found it to be a lot more satisfying to be able to let go when something happens, to assume that the other person had good reasons I don’t know or might not understand, and to realise that sometimes just because someone does something that’s inconvenient to me doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have done it. A great example is motorway driving. When someone pulls out perfectly reasonably but I have to slow down, I could rant and rave but really there’s nothing wrong with what they did – I just didn’t like it. If I turn that into an absolute judgement of moral character, there’s no hope because we all experience little bumps and inconveniences every day. I’ll forever be whining and complaining about all the low-lifes that plague my existence instead of getting on with dealing with my own life. All that energy could really be a lot better spent.