I truly believe that most people have good intentions. Sure there are a few “bad apples” out there but I think for the most part people have really good intentions. However, just because we say or do something with good intentions does not mean that it is good for someone else. I was listening to the podcast “Hilarious Humanitarians” the other day (sidenote: you need to check them out if you haven’t) and they were talking about things people say and how harmful it can unknowingly be.
The most frequent offender is this, talking to a young couple about having kids, “Why haven’t you had kids?” “When are you going to have kids?” “I can’t wait to have grandkids!” Nothing like a little-added pressure to an already stressful situation. What if that couple has been trying? What if they just found out they will never be able to have kids? What if they are going through some tough shit that you do not know about? Maybe there have been several miscarriages. That casual statement, made again with good intentions, just rubbed some salt in their wounds. Hell depending on the situation you just poured lemon juice in the wound and walked away.
Another personal favorite is “Why are you single?” “Why aren’t you married yet?” This one always feels like “What the hell is wrong with you? Why doesn’t anyone want you?” Well maybe, just maybe unmarried folk have their priorities elsewhere. Maybe they believe in marrying once so they are holding out for the absolute right person. Yes, I know that a lot of people phrase it in a way that is meant to be complimentary like “you’re so great why haven’t you met Mr./Mrs. Right yet?” but as someone who tends to be single, it doesn’t always come across that way. Especially after the 100th time.
I had a friend recently say to me, “Anyone who needs a roommate clearly doesn’t have their shit together.” Uhhhh woah there. I need a roommate because I’m paying back student loans. I need a roommate so I can do other things besides sit in my house. I need a roommate so I’m not living paycheck to paycheck because I’m a teacher. Oh and also I live in Colorado…you know our cost of living is now slightly above California…so there’s that.
There was something else I have recently learned about myself. Sometimes I make casual comments too. Maybe about people’s parenting or about how “I would NEVER (fill in the blank)” to people whom I do not know their entire backstory. And you know what? Some of those things I sound hypercritical on or judge-y are things that person has done or experienced. And you know what? Someone recently called me on that and told me their backstory and I felt like an asshole.
I’m not saying tiptoe around every single person and constantly sensor yourself. That’s impossible. What I am saying is that you need to be mindful of the unintended consequences of your words. Not just your words but your preconceived notions of how everyone’s timeline or life should look. Everyone is moving at a pace that works for them. And if they are happy and not hurting anyone, who are we to judge or pressure them into changing their opinions? Live your life the best that you can and let other people live theirs the best way that they can.