Do you ever wonder just WHAT it is that makes us so critical of other people and their decisions? Why is it that people seem so quick to jump all over someone when they do or say something that is not what they would say or do? Why is it so hard to show compassion and empathy sometimes?
I’ve always considered myself fairly compassionate, but I don’t think I really had a grasp on what it truly meant to BE compassionate until life taught me some hard lessons. I used to judge harshly and criticize the decisions of others. I used to shake my head and tisk my tongue when someone did something that was not as I would have done. But I’ve learned that I don’t know everything.
I keep finding myself in the middle of some really silly arguments. The latest went something like this. Friend A is about 36 weeks pregnant. She has had a miserable pregnancy, has not felt well, and is just over it. She made a comment about how she couldn’t wait to get that baby out of her. A normal comment from someone in her position. I remember feeling that way. Every time.
But it was not taken well at all by friend B. The texts start flying.
“Can you believe she said that?” says friend B, who, incidentally delivered her baby at 28 weeks and spent three months watching her grow in the NICU. She is justifiably upset. However, friend B has never carried a baby to full term and doesn’t know the extreme discomfort that can bring either. “If she only knew how terrible it is to watch your baby in the NICU instead of being able to have a normal experience! Not being able to hold them and nurse them… hmmph.”
My response: “Of course she doesn’t know. She only knows what she knows.” I wanted to say to friend B: “Just like you do not know how miserable the last few weeks of pregnancy can be,” but I thought that would be hurtful and unnecessary.
To friend A, who also communicated with me about how Friend B accosted her after making her seemingly harmless statement, I calmly reminded her that Friend B’s only experience with pregnancy ended entirely too soon, and she also only knows what she knows.
If I hadn’t experienced both of their situations, I’m not sure how I would have responded to either of them. But it made me wonder why people get so bent out of shape over innocent comments people make. Andy why we can’t just remember that people don’t do or say things to piss YOU off. They do it for themselves. Based on what they know.
I can’t help wondering if this is the purpose for the journey that I have taken?
In the days, weeks, months, even year after I lost my infant daughter Kathryn, I experienced a terrible identity crisis.
I lived in a world of both survivors and grieving mothers… joy and pain, helplessness and hopefulness.
You see, I had delivered twins, but only one survived. I watched one die, and became a “grieving mother.”
But, eventually, I got to take my other baby home. So I was not a mother with empty arms either.
It was in this “in between” world that I saw everything differently.
I was now the mother of a micro preemie, and the mother of two full term babies. And the mother of an angel.
I understood wanting to “get that baby out!” even though I also realized the very serious repercussions of preterm birth.
I knew the pain of losing a child, but still could not quite “coddle” my living children.
So I experienced the emotions from all sides. And I believe it is this experience that opened my eyes to the understanding that people react, speak, and take actions based on what life has put in their path.
If I hadn’t lived through the painful experience of losing a child and gaining a whole new level of compassion, would I ever have gotten to this point of clarity? Is it something that can be taught or learned? I don’t know.
What I DO know is that I can share this thought with you – SHE ONLY KNOWS WHAT SHE KNOWS.
This goes beyond just whether or not someone is complaining about the misery of being pregnant. It’s about EVERYTHING.
Maybe the next time you’re looking at someone and shaking your head, you might be able to take a step back and just remember that she makes her decisions based on HER life experiences. And she’s doing the best she can.
She only knows what she knows.
My life has been colored by my experiences. Just as I cannot expect anyone else to understand how the events of my life have shaped my personality or my decision making, I try to look at others with this same approach.
Acceptance, love, compassion, empathy…
After going through what I’ve gone through, I understand a simple truth:
She only knows what she knows. So please don’t expect her to make the decisions that you would make, based on the life experiences you have had.