Ever get annoyed by the inconsiderate habits of other people? Me too! And it’s a stupid place to be, let me tell you.
We can often get annoyed by others when we think they’re being inconsiderate or, in our opinion, lacking in integrity or just being rude. Some of us pass it off as a personality flaw. Some of us can’t help but try to figure out why they are so rude and so we begin to rationalize why they could be so inconsiderate. Some of us actually can be consumed by another’s rude or inconsiderate behavior, and we may end up ruminating and contemplating about it obsessively. Each of these examples are varying degrees of judging others. Are we to judge others? So what if we judge? What’s the big deal about not judging others anyway? If you’re annoyed by what someone else does, does that mean you’re judging them?
Well if someone cuts you off in traffic and you get annoyed, you’re certainly not okay with being being cut off in traffic. What do you decide about that person? Most likely, you judge them. If it’s black friday or otherwise a busy shopping day, and you’ve been hunting for a parking spot for several minutes, you finally find one and then somebody else pulls in to your spot, are you annoyed? Probably. Do you judge them? Maybe.
I noticed recently that I’m annoyed by warm soda. Sounds silly? Yes, yes it is. But I think it also illustrates an important point about judgment placed on others.
My home is a shared living environment. We share in the expenses. We share in many common necessities such as cleaning supplies, paper, trash bags, sometimes food. One of the things we share is soda. Sometimes cases of soda. I won’t go into what kind of soda we share in, but I will say that it is green – in the right light it is almost unnaturally green.
Well I’ve noticed that there is a sort of pattern that I’m annoyed by when it comes to my roommates and this green soda. If I take a cold soda from the fridge, I make sure to put two warm ones into the fridge to replace it, since who wants to drink warm soda? I believe that if you’re going to use a thing, you ought to replace what you use with more than you use. That is my habit, born from my beliefs. However, I’ve noticed that sometimes my roommates will drink the cold soda in the fridge but not replace them with the warm ones. I go to the fridge to grab a cold soda and find that the fridge is empty of cold soda, yet there are plenty of warm sodas that hadn’t been put into the fridge. And then I get annoyed.
I think to myself, “I make sure we all have cold sodas to drink when I take a soda. Can’t my roommates extend the same courtesy when they take cold sodas from the fridge?” I think when you ask yourself a question like that, the subconscious goes to work creating an answer that makes sense to you, and that is when the judgment starts. I’ve caught myself thinking “If they can’t extend the common courtesy of replacing cold sodas with warm ones, what kind of people are they? Do they not understand that it takes at least an hour for a warm soda to get cold? Do they miss the fact that when they take the last cold soda, the next person that wants a cold soda has to put warm sodas into the fridge before they can drink them? What are they thinking? Do they even care at all?”
And then those judgments can turn into beliefs made up about their moral character. “They’re just lazy. They don’t care. They only think about themselves. They must be used to taking from others. They don’t care about other people.” and so on, and so on. Once a belief like that is set in place, that belief then works as a filter looking for evidence to support itself. Then it’s not just about warm soda. All of their behaviors are under scrutiny to fit the filter and the narrative of that growing belief. The mind begins to try and fit their other behaviors into the belief of “They don’t care about other people”. And so a dirty spoon left on the counter is immediately labelled as just another thoughtless, careless act you expect from “that kind of person”. Same thing with the load of laundry left in the dryer for more than a day, or a pile of dirty dishes left in the sink. Eventually, the caper of the warm soda just fades into a backdrop of dozens of damnable behaviors.
The silliest of annoyances can turn into judgments and if I’m not mindful, slip in and begin to shape my beliefs about other people. And really, do they deserve that kind of ill will over some insignificant act like taking the last cold soda without replacing it? Of course not. It’s more likely that I somewhere attached a sort of moral significance to simple acts of consideration, and began to believe in that strongly enough that when I witness acts of inconsideration or negligence, it actually bothers me sometimes. And when I’m bothered my mind has to reconcile that discomfort by imagining rational explanations to make sense of the situation, most often applied as judgments against that other person. Psychologists call this “projection”.
It’s amazing to me how often this goes on in everyone’s lives, every day, and I believe it all stems from each person’s unconscious habit of applying their own rules of moral conduct on others, while also being totally unaware of how our own behaviors may offend others’ rules of moral conduct. Everyone seems to be in the habit of evaluating everyone else based on their own rules and beliefs, and when others’ behaviors don’t fit, we run the risk of judging that person – who is usually totally unaware that they’re being judged! Which is worse, the minor injury I feel when offended by the ignorant actions of another, or the indignation, judgment, ill will or even hatred toward the person that offended me? I think the answer to that is obvious: Who am I to judge? And when I do judge others, my own imagination can often twist circumstances in order to fit that judgment that cause even more disdain and misery. Before you know it the entire situation can spiral out of control, totally sparked by and fueled by ignorance.
What about my thoughtless behaviors? Do I act or behave in ways that other people find annoying or even offensive? I’m sure I do, but while most people usually won’t make it known to me that I am being annoying, offensive or behaving in some way that makes others look down on me, how am I to know? Do my less than pure habits make me a bad person, worthy of judgments and ill will? Of course not. I’m acting, or not acting, out of ignorance, just like those people that annoy me for whatever reason are also acting out of ignorance. In either case, judgments simply are not warranted or justified, and in many cases can be quite damaging.
Here’s something else to consider. I’ve read many times in studying psychology, spirituality and personal development texts that those things that tend to annoy us or even make us angry are really just a reflection of ourselves. In other words, if someone does something that upsets you, the real upset is because what they did reminds you about something you yourself do and are not okay with, but you are unwilling to recognize it. You are unwilling to accept responsibility for your own actions that make you angry, so rather than be angry with yourself, you apply that anger to examples of your own behavior that you find in other people in your world. This is a more in depth description of “projection” as taught in psychology, and is thought to be a mechanism of the psyche to maintain a general feeling of being okay with one’s self, basically by deflecting blame from yourself onto others. This got me thinking about some of the ways I behave that may be seen by others as inconsiderate; simple, seemingly unimportant habits such as leaving a dirty dish on the kitchen counter, forgetting to take the trash out, leaving my clothes in the dryer too long, leaving the door unlocked when they may want it locked, etc, etc.
It’s worth noting that once I came to this realization about what I was doing – not about what they were doing – that it instantly dissolved any annoyance I felt over not only their failure to replace cold soda, but also other insignificant acts that got on my nerves. Finding a refrigerator devoid of cold soda then elicited a comical “Meh” in my mind as opposed to an infuriating “Come on!! Really!?”. Noticing the change in my attitude then made it obvious that those judgments and frustrated feelings were not only useless, but were an anathema to my mental well being and enjoyment of life, and the irony is that they had absolutely nothing to do with it. All of it, from annoyance to judgments to ill feelings, all of that was entirely my own creation. All they really did was take the last cold soda. Meh – no big deal.
Truly, getting pissed at someone for something they mindlessly do and judging their behavior based on your own principles is a complete and total waste of time, and life. This is another illustration of the power of self awareness in daily life and from moment to moment. Since most of us are generally running around on autopilot, reacting to circumstances instead of responding to them, we find difficult circumstances appear in life seemingly out of nowhere. Yet we are also generally cut off from the awareness that it is we, ourselves, and our beliefs, and our judgments, that are usually at the root of our troubles. Especially in relationships with others.
So take a good hard look at what annoys you, and then apply that precision of judgment at your own life. See what you come up with. I think the more you are able to police yourself and in particular your thoughts and beliefs concerning others, the more you realize that every bit of it actually stems from you. And the less you are aware of these judgments within you, the less you are aware of the consequences of those judgments showing up in your life, most often as more reasons for you to judge what’s out there instead of reconciling that which is within you. This may be part of the wisdom of the adage “Judge not lest ye be judged”.