A woman purses her lips and arches an eyebrow at a mother talking angrily to a child in a grocery store.

Are We Being Judgmental?

We have all had numerous experiences over the course of our RA journey in which we felt judged by other people. RA can be a “hidden” disease, and because of that, challenges arise from others unfamiliar with the disease. 

Judgment due to lack of understanding about RA

For instance, I have a handicapped tag for my vehicle.  There have been a handful of times whereas I exit my car, someone will challenge my right to park there.  Perhaps because I may not be overtly limping or exhibiting some disabling condition, they think I am faking it or falsely using the tag. 

I tend to simply ignore those comments, but I have also found myself responding.  My answer has simply been that I have a legitimate reason for using the tag and I leave it at that.  A good example of being judged by others.

It doesn't happen often, but it still has an impact

Another example is when I may not attend a social gathering or accept an invitation because I am flaring or feel the situation would not be good for me at that time.  There have been times when the person angrily asks why? “You have arthritis,” they say, “not a deadly disease.”

To which I might respond, “Well, RA is more than arthritis which I am happy to elaborate on, but suffice it to say, I am not well enough to attend”. To be honest, this has only happened a handful of times, not very often at all, over my 25+ years with this disease. Still, it breeds resentment and a defensive attitude at times.

Lessons on practicing compassion & understanding

I think the lesson here is to keep all of this in perspective and use it as a good reminder that judgment goes both ways. Knowing that I am judged at times, I try very hard to not make those same assumptions about others. Amazing how often we judge! 

We don't know a person's circumstances

This is especially true in these days of intense discussions on social media. Rarely do we know the full set of circumstances that surround a person posting.  Yet, we find ourselves making some assumptions about people just based on their comments. 

This is not productive and something I am working very hard to avoid. Knowing how it feels from the perspective of a person with a chronic disease, I think I should be even more sensitive to passing judgment and how harmful it can be.  Yet, it is a trap we often fall into.

How can we be less judgmental?

So how do we avoid it? It is a mental practice.  When we see something that invites judgment, pause, take a breath, and do some self-talking that includes a reminder to not make assumptions. 

Take a moment to pause and reflect

For example, I was in a store and a young mother was loudly and angrily reprimanding her small child.  My immediate reaction was, “Why is she yelling at that poor child in public?” ­I began thinking what a poor mother she is, and on and on.  I was able to catch myself, and in fact, reached out to her to diffuse this situation. 

I said, “It sure is tough to shop with little ones, especially if we are all tired or hungry”. She smiled and thanked me for understanding. She said she was sorry to yell, but she was exhausted after a double shift as a nurse, her sitter had not shown up, etc. In that moment, she calmed down, had a chance to vent, and felt better. 

Practicing compassion can become a positive habit

We ended up in the same line at checkout and I asked if I could purchase a treat for her child.  She said thank you so much and when I handed it to her child I made some light and easy conversation with her. It was so much better than if I had simply judged her harshly and moved along.  What a better outcome this was for everyone!

If we simply pause, stop those negative judgments, reflect on how to proceed with the same compassion and thoughtfulness we would like, it will become a positive habit and practice. What a better world we would have!


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