I think growing up with a disabled mom gave me an understanding of how hurtful judging others for their differences can be. Living with multiple sclerosis and coping with the progression of the disease has made me even more aware of this.
A recent personal experience brought forth the emotions this kind of judgment puts on those living with chronic illness and/or a disability.
This individuals judgment couldn’t have come at a worse time. Emotions and exhaustion were already in over drive. As my family and I had just endured a 5 hour flight the day before and were coping with the loss of my grandmother.
In fact we had just returned to my Aunts home where everyone was gathering following the funeral.
Since my grandmother had been living in Florida with my Aunt there were quite a few people there my dad, sister, and I didn’t know.
One individual made her way over to speak to us. After saying she was sorry and how much she thought of my grandmother (which was very much appreciated) she carried on with your usual small talk.
Where are you from……and then she asked so what do all of you do for a living. I was extremely tired so all I could think to say was I’m disabled.
She then snickered and looked me up and down. She said well everyone has some kind of struggle these days. Isn’t there something you can do! She made some other comments but I couldn’t tell you what they were because in that moment I felt so little and worthless. I tried to say well I didn’t mean I don’t do anything. I’m just not able to work outside the home. But the words just wouldn’t come out.
It just wasn’t the time or place to say anything and I wasn’t going to make the day any harder on my Aunt. So I felt it best to let it go. I thought if I was quiet it would just end it.
She went on to talk to my sister about her farm. She just couldn’t stop there. She kept taking little shots at my family like somehow we were beneath her. I felt like the best thing for me to do at this time was just step away from the conversation.
I struggle every day to get up. It isn’t easy because my left side is so much weaker than the right but I have developed a way of doing this. She saw me turning and positioning myself to get up and thought she should explain to me how I was doing it wrong. She went on to tell me the right way to do so. Let me just say her way would not have helped me at all. To do what she wanted me to do I would first of all need to have balance. Second I would need to have strength in my legs Any way I managed to get up and leave the room. After I left I heard her say to my sister. I hope I didn’t offend her. My sister just politely smoothed things over and said no, I think she is just tired.
My sister told me that she thought she offended me when I left the room. I said well she did.
When we returned home I told my mom about the incident and she said well next time just say you’re retired. Yes that would probably be an easier way to handle the situation. Like I told my mom. That would be easier but I don’t feel like I should have to be ashamed or hide the truth. I did nothing wrong. I didn’t cause this disease. I am disabled. That does not mean that I am lazy or that I sit around watching TV all day. I still work with in my home. I still do all of the cleaning and cooking. It doesn’t mean that I no longer want to work. I want so much to be able to work. I miss it every day of my LIFE! But I am not going to beat myself up for something I have no control over either. I will not apologize for MS taking that away from me. I will however keep fighting to stay as active as I possibly can. I will continue to live a happy life in spite of my limitations.
This person’s judgment bothered me for a number of reasons. She just assumed I was lying because she couldn’t visibly see anything wrong with me. She assumed I was lazy and didn’t want to work. I’m sure she thinks I’m just taking advantage of the system so I can stay home. All of which are wrong. She doesn’t know me. Never met me before this day. She doesn’t know how long I worked or how hard I worked. How long I continued to work after my diagnosis. On top of that I feel she should have kept her thoughts to herself considering the reason we were all together. We were there to remember my grandmother and it was just disrespectful.
We are all guilty of passing judgment at some point in our lives. Myself included. I’m not perfect but I also know that I have enough respect for myself and others to stop myself and think before I speak. I ask myself do I know this person’s situation or what struggles they may be facing.
1. Is it true? Do you have all the facts? Chances are you don’t have all the information. You don’t know everything there is to know about a person’s situation. Especially if you have never met them before.
2. Is it helpful? Are your words going to help or hurt this person. Judgment increases stereotyping and creates negativity.
3. Is it inspiring? We should be lifting each other up not tearing each other down.
4. Is it necessary? Is your comment necessary? Is it bad timing.
5. Is it kind? If your comment could possibly hurt or embarrass someone it is not kind!
Do onto others as you would want done to you. How would you feel if someone treated you or a loved one this way?
Things to Remember:
Judging others doesn’t define who they are it defines who you are as a person.
Appearance is deceptive. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because it isn’t visible to you doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
And lastly there are no guarantees in life. Remember anything can happen and you just might find yourself in the same situation.