Let’s go back to the coffee shop on a sunny Arizona morning for today’s life lesson.
I am sitting alone so I can’t get into much trouble gossiping about my neighbors. But at that table over there, two people are going through a litany of friends and bad-mouthing each and every one. The people at the table right next to me are doing the same thing. They are all talking in voices I don’t have to strain to hear. The people at both tables are theorizing about what Tom, Dick and Julie should be doing, ought to do and things they “just need to realize.”
They all seem to have just the right answers about what their friends, families and acquaintances ought to do with their lives. It doesn’t matter a whit that the gossipers own lives are probably train wrecks, but by God they know what someone else ought to do. They seem to have the special rule book that tells them all the “right ” things other people should do. They know that even if they really don’t understand their “friends” real circumstances.
I am certainly guilty of the same behavior. It is always very clear to me how someone else ought to run their lives. On my good days I shut my mouth. On bad days, I tell someone else how and what that other person should do.
We all frequently attempt to direct other people’s live from afar, but we feel remarkably different when we hear that other people are second-guessing our decisions and our behavior. We get huffy and angry. “How dare they presume to know all the things I struggle with and carry. How dare they assume they have a guidebook to behavior that I don’t.” I can work myself into a perfect snit over other people’s audacity and cheekiness, all the while forgetting that I do it to other people all the time.
As I have written in this space so many times, our journey is our own. Only we know what makes sense for us. Only we know where our heart takes us and where it’s been. It is impertinent and maddening when other people judge our journey with an implied arrogance that they know best.
But every time I find myself in high dudgeon over those people who think they could run my life better than I can, I try to remind myself that I own that sin too. I judge them too. Until we walk other people’s journey in their shoes we don’t know squat about what they are going through or what their best decision might be.
We would all be best off if we remember the lyrics of an old Hank Williams tune: “Cause if you mind your business, then you won’t be mindin’ mine.”
Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance