Note: I feel it necessary to remind readers of my disclaimer.
Judge not lest ye be judged…
This is such a universal rule to live by, yet it is one that is seemingly impossible to abide by all the time. We all judge, on some level, whether or not we admit it to ourselves. Sometimes it is about big things… race, gender, religion, politics (a lot of the last two in this election season). Sometimes it is about small things… a catty comment about another woman's weight or appearance, derision about someone's choices. You may keep them to yourself, you may let them out in the world. There is also a univeral truth about judgments.
This is not a new wisdom, but one that I had a lesson in today, one that hurt me both heart and soul. I try to live without judgment as much as I can. I fail. We all do. But I try. I am a big believer that there is always more to the story than what appears on the surface. That's why I hate blanket statements and stereotypes. They assume too much. And let's face it. Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, Tumblr… they make it easy to vent, to exaggerate. She's just mad about something petty and stupid. There are worst things in the world. It's easy to dismiss the things we read. But a random post doesn't always tell the whole story. A whole life experience can't be defined by a 140-character tweet. Sometimes what is read is only the tip of the iceburg. Sometimes there is so much more going on, things that one couldn't possibly know from a single post. What gives us the right to judge one another without knowing the truth of it? Sometimes an angry post only tells the part of the story that is fit for public consumption. Sometimes people get to a point that they are hurt, they are angry, and that post is the only way that they have to vent off even a part of the stress.
I learned a lesson today.
It's not a new lesson to me, but it was driven home in a big way. Judgments hurt. This isn't the first time I have talked about them. I wrote a post about it just last week, judgments made about religion and politics. That was offensive, as so many judgments are. But today, because of a blanket statement, an assumption, a judgment… my heart and soul is hurting. I don't think most people intend to hurt with their judgments. I think they just don't always think about the situation from any other view than the surface. My heart was hurt today by a statement made by a wonderful woman, a woman with a big heart, who would never try to hurt someone. It was a statement about a particular situation that implied judgment (and blame). It judged the legitimacy of one's feelings on the situation. It didn't consider that there was possibly a whole lot more going on there than what it appeared to be about. It wasn't directed towards me personally, but to women in general. But it was about a subject that is deeply personal, one that almost tore my family apart several years ago. It is one that still rears its ugly head from time to time, gaming.
On the surface, complaining about how much time your significant other spends gaming probably does sound petty. As it was pointed out, at least they are home, not out messing around. On the surface, this is all very true. It was suggested that, as a woman, perhaps you should stop nagging him about that time, take one for the team, and join in. Pay more attention to him so that he turns that attention from the games to you. Support him in what he loves, at the very least. On the surface, there is value in that. On the surface. But that's the thing. How do you know that that is all that is going on?
It is so easy to pass judgment, especially online. The relative anonymity and safety of a computer makes it somehow okay to say things that you would never say to someone face to face. I love the internet and I love social media. But it can sometimes breed a lack of compassion and consideration. The fact is, in this time of rampant social media, you don't always know your audience, not really. You don't always know their religion, their politics, their experiences. Those things help make us who and what we are. Those blanket comments, those assumptions, those judgments? You are probably hurting someone on your friend's list when you make them.
Gaming almost destroyed my marriage.
I could have been the one to post that status about gaming. And it would have been about so much more than just an exaggeration. So much more than the surface.
It began not long after we were married. I was still active duty then, a soldier and a mom of three. We were in the same unit, same duty hours. Within an hour of getting home on a work night, he would be cloistered in his man cave playing PC games, staying there until it was bed time. Every day. For months. For years. Weekends and days off were worse. He'd spend 18-24 hours at a time in there, even sleeping in his chair for a few hours before gaming on. We only saw him when he came out to grab food to take back inside or on the way to the bathroom. For months. For years. Sometimes he would switch to the xBox, yelling at anyone and everyone who dared to make too much noise, despite the fact that he had put himself in the central part of the house, open to everything. There was no compromise. It was the way it was. For awhile, I didn't nag. We were newlyweds and I didn't want to admit to trouble already, not even to myself. I tried to be supportive, to understand that this was his thing, his hobby. I paid all the attention in the world to him. I even tried to get involved, to share in it. It wasn't enough. He wanted to be left alone to play his games.
Eventually, we had our youngest son, Ty. He was born with a cleft lip and palate and developed puloric stenosis. He was very ill with that, and required a lot of care for that and for the cleft for a very long time. I was out of the Army by that time, a stay-at-home mom to 4 boys from newborn to 9, one with all kinds of extra needs. For over a year, I slept no more than an hour at a time because of Ty, most nights sitting up. To this day, I have trouble sleeping flat like a normal person or for more than two or three hours a night. This didn't change his behavior at all. In fact, after about a year of this, I collapsed from exhaustion. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't good. His inability to care for anything other than games, even in the face of what was going on with our family was too much for me. I left him. It hasn't been all sunshine and roses since, but my leaving him scared some sense into him. It still comes up sometimes, even years later, and when it does… it scares the hell out of me. I don't ever want to go back to that time.
I am not going to sugar coat it. I felt worthless. I felt like a whore. There is no exaggeration when I say that generally the only time I saw him regularly outside of work was when he wanted to get some. This doesn't instill any feelings of esteem, let me tell you. And those feelings last. He neglected me and he definitely neglected our children, emotionally. That lasts, too. So does the resentment. Things are miles better now. It may not be perfect, but it is somewhere that I had lost hope that we would be.
It was never really about the gaming. It's about priorities, or the lack of them. It is about what that choice to devote all your waking hours on PC or xBox games means to those around you. It's about knowing that games, inanimate games, are far more important than family. It's about needs and compromise. It's great to talk about paying attention to your man, to get involved, to support his hobbies. It's also sometimes BS. He didn't want my attention or my involvement and he didn't give a damn about my support and understanding. Nagging wasn't what caused him to excessively and obsessively game. It's what happened after weeks, months, and years of being tossed aside. It also implies that his treatment of his family was my fault. It wasn't. It was his. It also implies that somehow a woman's needs are less important than a man's. That is total BS. I have spent years living like that and you know what it does? It leaves you miserable and sad and full of anger and resentment.
Don't put it out there if you don't want to be judged.
I hear that alot. I think it is crap. I think it is a valuable piece of advice. I don't think any of us have the right to judge another's pain, anger, or misery. Just because something may seem petty to us, doesn't mean that it feels that way to someone else. It's not about agreeing with them, or even understanding where they are coming from. It is about respecting their right to feel. But that doesn't happen very often and that's why I think it is valuable advice. Putting yourself out there with your emotions, like I am with this blog, puts you at the mercy of the judgments of others. Is it right? Hell, no. But it is the truth of it. But it shouldn't be that way.
The moral of the story is…
To think. To be aware. To consider. To be open.
You don't always know your audience. You don't always know their stories.
There's another universal lesson to be learned here. The lack of face to face time through a computer doesn't make judgments less hurtful.
I argued with myself while writing this post. What to include, what to exclude. I wrote paragraphs, deleted paragraphs. I try to never name names or name relationships in my (negative)) blogs, but this story couldn't be told without that happening with one person. My husband. But this is my truth, my experience, too. I can't be true to myself if I try to talk around it. So I called him and I asked him and told him why. And he agreed that it is also my story to tell and that it was my choice to tell it.