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Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, but…

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, but false judgement can never hurt me.

Now, we’re talking about simple everyday life here – not accusations of criminal activity or the misuse of government institutions or the media for harassment. That’s a different story.

I read a post the other day that broke my heart.  I won’t link to it because I don’t need to make a big deal about it and we’ve all heard it:  Don’t judge people because I felt horrible because I was afraid they were judging me. 

Folks, we evaluate people every day.  Sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly.  There’s another word for that in the animal kingdom:  Instinct.

Human beings are the only animals on the planet who are taught to ignore their instincts.  We’re also the only animals who can abuse those instincts.  Basically, it’s a mess but that mess comes with a choice.

Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy.

Personally, I choose happy – most of the time. Nobody’s perfect. That rare time I choose to be right is what I want to write about today.

Being an ex-drunk, I have a lot of excuses to be less than stellar. After all, being a loser is in my DNA, it is my nature – it is my default, even after more than twenty years of learning to be a winner.

With those decades and a whole lot of practice has come an understanding of how I work, of how and when I trip the default and head back to victim-ville where “it’s not fair” rules the day. Unfortunately, not being perfect comes with its disadvantages: It can take a few days to figure out when I’m going the wrong way. On the other hand, practice mitigates the damage. Often I can identify poor thinking within a second or two which allows me to stay on the “happy” path.

Rather than bloviate further, I’ll get right to the meat and potatoes of staying on the right path when it comes to other’s judgement of me. Do I want to be right or happy, because it can rarely be both. The first, most important point that I must keep at the forefront, at all times, that another’s opinion or judgement of me is none of my business when I’m doing my best estimation of the next right thing. The core of this understanding is the fact that almost all people who make mistakes in judgement contrast what they see through their lens, my outsides, with what is going on inside themselves.

For the sake of being right, people will make an assumption of who I am based on their past experience – they filter my words or actions through their past and make assumptions based on that little snapshot. This is human nature – this is instinct and there’s no way I’m going to buck someone else’s ignorance and evolution in one fell swoop.

Explained this way, hopefully I’ve made it rather clear that even attempting to change someone else’s filter, their very life experience, is futile. The question becomes, why bother? This is the basis for the earlier statement that someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business… And the key to my happiness.

The truth is, life is difficult enough just trying to do the next right thing than to try to keep up with everyone else’s notion of who I am.

That reality leads to the real bombshell: The only time someone else’s criticism really hurts is when that judgement confirms what I already believe about myself.

This gets back to doing the next right. If I am shorting myself, if I am putting forth half-measures, harsh criticism and judgement will confirm what I already know: That I’m phoning it in – and that’s why it hurts.

The temptation is to lash out at a person for making an observation while the real damage is being done between my own ears. If I’m concentrating on what a jerk the other person is I can miss the fact that the problem is within me.

If one really wants to be happy, all that must be done is to make sure that we’re doing the next right thing at any given moment. Doing so sets our minds at ease so that when someone falsely judges us, we are equipped to set the record straight and to move on. This is what winners do.

This is what I aspire to, and what I practice on a daily basis.

May your body be in constant motion, so your head may be at peace.

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