You know what I'm talking about: that smirky, snarky, eye-rolly feeling that comes up. There you are, attending a friend's wedding. Or even more likely, there you are: looking at pictures on the internet.
And suddenly, what's that? TUT-TUT, did she REALLY!? Oh my lands, SHE DID. Can you beLIEVE? I would never! It blows my mind that anyone could possibly think this was a good idea.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
You can swap in your own judgment triggers: aesthetic choices (SO UGLY!), budget decisions (in these parts, judgments of OMG SO CHEAP! are just as common as OMG SO WASTEFUL), political/cultural statements (TACTLESS! OFFENSIVE!), and relationship choices (I CAN'T BELIEVE THESE TWO ARE GETTING MARRIED) are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the judgments around weddings that come up for folks.
Here on Offbeat Bride, of course, we're all about being supportive and constructive and cheerleader-y, but let's be honest: Of course judgments come up. They do for me as the publisher, they do for all my editors, and they do for every single reader.
As I said on Offbeat Mama last year:
For me, the goal is not to kill the judgment (impossible! irrational!) but to observe which issues make it flare up. I think there's a lot to be learned from observing one's judgments, and "Wow, I'm a judgmental bitch. Maybe I should work on that…" is just the first and most obvious lesson.
When I feel judgment flare up, I use it as a tool to examine my own motives and values. That judgey feeling tells me, "Uh, clearly this is a topic I have some strong emotions about…why?" I try to ask myself why I care — what are the ramifications of someone doing something differently than me? What can I do in my own life to ensure that I'm living with integrity on this issue? What are my personal experiences with this issue that make it so important to me?
My goal is not to find consensus. (Impossible!) Nor is my goal to eliminate all judgement. (Although I do eliminate judgmental comments.) My goal is to expose readers to as many perspectives as possible, so that we can examine our own beliefs, learn from our judgments, and gain greater insight into our OWN values.
I've been thinking about this issue more as I'm reading this book about non-violent communication, which talks about the difference between value judgments and moralistic judgments:
All of us make value judgments as to the qualities we value in life; for example, we might value honestly, freedom, or peace. Value judgments reflect our beliefs of how life can best be served. We make moralistic judgments of people and behaviors that fail to support our value judgments.
(From Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg)
In other words: your core values of wedding planning are awesome, whatever they may be. Rather than judge others for not matching your values, find ways to learn from those judgments to help you better understand what's important to you.
For instance, when you look at someone's wedding and think to yourself, say, "I can't believe they went so low-rent on the food like that… that's so cheap and tacky," what you're really saying is something more like, "Serving my loved ones food of high quality is part of how I show them that I care about them. Serving food like this would make me feel like I wasn't taking care of my guests in the ways that feel important to me."
Judgments are really just your own values bumping up against someone who has different values.
Judgments are really just your own values bumping up against someone who has different values. It's not about them sucking — it's just about different values. Rather than simply acknowledging the difference, and exploring what it says about your own priorities and decisions, it's easy to get caught up in projecting your moralistic judgement onto this person with different values.
More than just easy, it can be fun. Judging can become an epic sort of sport, the Olympics of Snark where you run the gauntlet with your burning bitching torch of hilarious snide commentary. You quip and blast better than all of them, passing the finish line first and humbly accepting your gold medal of Taste Arbitration. As they play the national anthem, you put your hand over your heart and think to yourself, "I'm so much better than all those fuckers."I'm all for the occasional, self-contained Judgey Olympics. Keep it quiet, and no one gets hurt. Or rather, no one gets hurt but you… because you missed an opportunity for personal growth, opting instead to gloat in empty, petty, superficial superiority. (No shame, guys. I totally do it, too — and I enjoy it!) But every judgment is an opportunity to actually learn something significant about yourself.
When you view even the most petty of judgments this way, they can be used to help you better clarify your values and what's important. Rather than indulge in it (OMG DID YOU SEE THIS FUCKING SHIT!?) or beat yourself up (GOD, WHY AM I SUCH A BITCH), instead you can flip it over and welcome the flare of judgment as an opportunity for some introspection and reality checking.
What can this judgment tell you about decisions that YOU need to make?
So, when you're confronted with your own judgey-ness, instead of indulging the bitchery OR flogging yourself for being critical, consider whether you've got the time and the bravery instead to examine what the judgments say about your values, your fears, your priorities. What can this judgment tell you about decisions that you need to make? Remember: demolition is always easier than construction. It's taking the next step that's hard, so don't let yourself get trapped in the judgments. See if you can determine what the judgments say about your values, and how you can pro-actively make decisions that help you live out your own ideal.