I’ve recently learned that I’m not like most other people. Being autistic, my brain works in very different ways than a majority of humans out there. One way I think differently is that I am greatly affected by my environment and the people around me. I can be made uncomfortable to the point of distraction (or worse) by light or sound, or even the energy of the people around me. I don’t try to judge folks, but I have left parties I really wanted to attend due to there being an energy in the room that could only be described as judgmental or hateful.
As a reaction to those sorts of stimuli, I will politely excuse myself and leave the premises. I’m not looking to cause a scene or embarrass anyone; I simply need to remove myself from the situation. In general, I do not feel any judgment toward these people. It could just as easily be my energy being “off,” but the combination of me in a space like that will feel to me like the pressure of a pair of magnets with their repelling ends being forced together. It becomes unsustainable in very short order.
So why do I bring up my unpredictable behavior at parties? Only this. I love meeting new people and getting to know them as individuals. I love hearing people tell their stories, why and how they got to where they are, and what their dreams are. I will walk up and talk to ANYONE about ANYTHING, as long as the vibe is good. And I will never judge people for what they tell me. If there is something off in their story, something people MIGHT generally disapprove of, I would THANK that person for sharing that very special gift with me, and ask more about what brought them there and what happened next.
One primary reason we cannot, as a society, have deeper conversations with those we interact with, even our loved ones, if I’m being honest, is a lack of trust. Nobody wants to be judged! And in a society where judgment happens CONSTANTLY, how can anyone be honest and authentic? If your conversation partner is going to judge what you say, you might have to withdraw, limit the topics or not share as authentically as you otherwise might.
Certain topics will create the most fear, as well as the most vulnerability because they are the most shame-inducing. Certain topics, when uttered, will prompt a reaction that generally results in one potentially applying judgment about the character of the speaker, and while the conversation may continue, the vibe will never be the same once certain knowledge shared.
Very specifically, a woman’s medical history, whether or not she has had an abortion, should NEVER, EVER be a thing that irreversibly changes your feeling or impression of that woman. If you know someone well enough that she confided this personal a story with you and you find yourself slipping into judgment of her or her decision or the circumstances leading up to that event in her life, check yourself. You cannot and should not place yourself in judgment of a woman based on her medical decisions, period.
The fact that so many people actually do make these judgments is a good part of the problem with our discourse in America and in the western world more broadly. Here’s something to practice. Imagine your favorite person in the world. It could be your significant other, or child, or parent, or friend. Next imagine the very worst thing you could think of a person doing, something you believe is the most despicable action. Now imagine your favorite person came to you and shared with you that they had done that very worst thing at some point in their life before. How would you react?
Maybe you would give them the benefit of the doubt. It was only one time and I’m sure they had a really good reason, you think. As long as we don’t have to talk about it anymore, we’re cool, you think. Or maybe you judge them; they lose some of your esteem because you now know their secret, something they may have been holding on to for years, or even decades. They trusted you with deep intimate personal information and you think less of them, not that they did a thing (because that happened long ago), but because you learned of it. When you look at it that way, judgment is kind of silly. Your mood or relationship is going to change because your awareness changed, not because your favoritr person did or didn’t do the thing; that state was already set before your conversation.
Now imagine that it’s not your favorite person but a complete stranger, or even someone you know and don’t like. Would you change your view of them if you found out they took the action you find morally repugnant. Would you hate someone more or avoid meeting a new potential friend because of their past actions that you might just as soon not have known about?
Just some food for thought for my neurotypical friends. I’ve met a LOT autistic people lately and the one thing we all seem to have in common is a lack of judgment of people. This doesn’t mean we aren’t discerning; we choose to spend our time sometimes in very precise and purposeful ways and avoid people that don’t support us if we can.
But MOST people are judgment machines! I know because I used to be one. I wore a neurotypical mask for nearly my entire life until nearly 3 years ago. I would constantly judge people based on cultural norms, not even based on my own criteria of what was important. But my harshest judgments were ALWAYS reserved for myself and my own actions. I lived my life by the “should.” I always waited until the guidelines were drawn so I would know the parameters, what someone expected to see from me.
But now I’ve come home to my inner spirit that tells me not to judge. I have never walked in anyone else’s shoes but my own and therefore I have no business passing judgment on others. The truth is no one does.
Do any of my words give you pause? Are you picking up what I’m putting down? Everyone is looking for a safe space to share and connect with others. You must create it! Yes, you. You know who you are. Now practice this. Every damn day.
P.S. I am one of the millions of women in this world who have had an abortion. This changed the course of my life many years ago. Will it change your opinion of me now? That decision is 100% up to you, because I am EXACTLY the same person I was before you read this essay. Did you change?
Also, you should listen to this podcast.
[First Person] Merritt Tierce and the Abortion She Didn’t Have #firstPerson
https://podcastaddict.com/episode/140912683 via @PodcastAddict