I know it will come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog, but I’m very introspective. I’ve always been this way – but during my Catholic years it was very much focused on sin and how to stop sinning. Now it’s a lot more centered on mental-health and leaving as big of a wake of kindness and love as possible in my life.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between me and people who don’t give others the benefit of the doubt as easily. You know, in conversations about poverty I tend to talk about systemic issues and the burden of generational poverty in creating trauma and how hard it is to overcome those two things. But I also know people who tend to look at poverty assuming the majority of people who are poor are just lazy or feel entitled to free stuff.
I like to try to understand these very different responses to conversations about poverty. I keep coming back to my personal perspective that, if you had taken away my privileges of being white and raised middle class with a financial safety net under me at many catastrophic points in my life…I doubt I would be anything but a drug addicted homeless person. I don’t see myself as being able to overcome anything even remotely challenging and so I’m grateful I had an “easy” life.
Now…if I push deep into that perspective I do see challenges I overcame and start to give myself a better stance in a different world…but my initial instinct is always one of self-doubt and I am very critical and hesitant to give myself any credit for anything good. If someone points out a good characteristic that might have helped me overcome challenges I immediately pass it off on something unrelated to me: My Dad, My Family, My Friends, My White Privilege.
I take very little credit for anything good I’ve done.
And I know that this is something that is inherently bad, I should be able to look at myself with more kindness and give myself more credit…and I do try to work on that…but I often wonder if that trait is what so easily allows me to give others wide berths of forgiveness. I think everyone is bigger than their worst moments because Lord knows I do not want to be judged by mine.
Of course…there is inherently a lot of kindness towards self too, if I really think about it. At least towards my past self. When I reflect on those bad moments…those worst decisions in my life…I often frame them, not with excuses really, but with understanding. I did that thing because I hadn’t learned that valuable lesson yet. Or I did that thing because I was scared. Or I did that thing because I was lonely.
And so when I see/hear other people doing bad things I tend to try to search for the same framework. She’s not a great Mother because she had a terrible Father. He’s not a great husband because he struggles with anxiety and depression.
Now…when I compare those habits to those who judge others harshly I find first and foremost: Racism…because let’s be honest. I know people who judge white people way less harshly than they judge people of color. But I also find a lot of self-congratulations: “I was able to overcome X,Y,Z without the government’s help so they should too.” And that framework of thought is so foreign to me I can never quite wrap my head around it. I’ve never honestly looked at something I’ve achieved in a positive way to be used against someone else. It’s such a foreign perspective to me I have to assume it helps separate our attitudes towards the disadvantaged.
I don’t know…I’ve just been following these thought patterns and introspection a lot lately as I try to understand during this political season how people who I know personally are not that different from me, can still look at the world through such a different lens. How people I share a meal with can denounce systemic racism or the traumatic effects of generational poverty…when otherwise we seem so similar. So I keep trying to dig in and find deeper causes to the difference to see if there’s anything I can address that goes below the surface at all.
Honestly? Sometimes I can feel success. Sometimes I can sense a shift in perspective even if but for a moment, but it’s never long-lasting or concrete and so I keep thinking about it, looking for deeper differences that are harder to unseat.
And holy CRAP this is a boring and pointless blog entry. But, I really wanted to get back into the habit of morning blogging again and so THIS IS WHAT YOU GET Y’ALL, I AM SORRY.