Are Others Judgmental About Your Relationship With The Alcoholic/Addict?
By Carole Bennett, MA
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about my own daughter’s relapse. I received a number of thoughtful and caring comments and even more empathetic folks sent me an e-mail sharing their own stories. I was grateful for the gentle guidance, suggestions and encouragement as so many people opened their hearts and shared with me some obviously painful experiences. Thank you for taking the time and emotional energy it took to connect with me.
So why am I writing a blog about judgment? It seems that my blog hit some angry and old judgmental chords with my own family; hence a public response. So, let’s start with the definition of judgment/judgmental.
According to a number of dictionaries, a concise definition of judgment is “an authoritative opinion, a divine sentence or decision.” Judgmental is defined as “characteristics by a tendency to judge harshly. Denoting an attitude in which judgments about other people’s conduct are made.” And so it was with some members of my own family.
In an attempt to mend frayed and brittle relationships between myself and some family members, my brother-in-law (a crusader of trying to promote a happy, family atmosphere) decided to forward my blog. His intention was to try and present a different perspective regarding the journey I had taken with my daughter; if nothing else, my point of view. For years these family members were somehow privy to a stilted version regarding my involvement with the painful and dangerous situation of my daughter’s substance abuse issues. Consequently they formed their opinion or judgments with hearsay and didn’t bother checking out all the facts. Truth to tell, they didn’t like me regardless and their estimation of my lack of “mothering skills” only confirmed to them that they were on the right track.
Fast forward to last week, my brother-in-law hoped that they might try to understand or maybe even consider fresh information than what they had clung to for so many years. Hopeful expectations of “Wow, we didn’t know that. Maybe we had judged her too harshly all those years”, instead backfired with “that’s a bunch of crap; she has never been there for her child.”
Saddened that they still saw me back where I was over 10 years ago, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the relationship a parent has with their child who is steeped in addiction and therefore self destructive behavior. I think every parent wants to be there for their child. But what does that mean? I pondered what might be the answer to that question as a response to the recent barbs aimed at my heart.
My daughter is active in her substance abuse; so was the answer to have her move in with me so I can monitor her addiction, or uncommitted attempts at recovery or maybe send her money every month on her promise that it was going to grocery’s or buy cat food and not drugs?
Could that be called responsible parenting? My definition of being there for my child was encouraging her to enter a sober living house or outpatient clinic and I would be happy to work out the finances with her. To let her know that I loved her and applauded any attempt she made at living a clean and sober lifestyle; healthy decisions and not emotional ones.
The bottom line to this diatribe with my family members was when pressed for their answer or their solution they couldn’t come up with one; just that they say me as a lousy mother then and a lousy mother now.
Judgmental behavior is one wrung below rescuing or enabling. The rescuer or enabler is active in their participation; they want to physically change or get in there and take over that person’s life because they don’t approve of the path they are on. The person that stands in judgment of another can insulate themselves from physical involvement and only has to huff and puff from their soap box about how “wrong”, uncaring or selfish” their prey is. Often they have no more facts about the situation than the man in the moon, but still they know best and if actions aren’t taken to satisfy their interpretation, then under the bus one are thrown.
In addition, these judgments can last for years and no matter what the so called culprit can do to rectify a situation; the die has been cast and moving on or taking into consideration new disclosures are almost impossible for the one holding the judgment sword.
So why are people so judgmental of others? We all are in one way or another. I can find myself quietly judging why someone isn’t more focused on achieving goals or doesn’t watch what they eat. So easy to cast dispersions, but maybe each of these individuals are doing the best they can to accomplish their goals or maybe they just don’t care and frankly, what business is it of mine or anyone’s.
Finding judgment in others can make someone feel superior; usually forming a one sided opinion and lacking an empathetic heart is myopic in ones thinking.
We have heard the saying “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.” So, until one has stepped in another’s shoes, seen their world through their eyes, please don’t judge. It is mean and cruel and surely serves no purpose. Frankly, I don’t care what these family members think of me, but my brother-in-law was devastated. He is a nice man and saw an opportunity to bring a fragile, brittle family together. Too bad he too was thrown under the bus.
© Carole Bennett