Carolyn Hax is away. The following is adapted from summer 2006 live discussions on www.washingtonpost.com.
Dear Carolyn: My fiance and I took the day off from work and went for a long walk. We worked up quite a sweat. I’m cooling down at the computer with a cold drink, but he is lounging on our nearly-new cloth couch, getting it all nasty.
I said cheerfully, as I walked by, “Can I get you something to drink at your computer chair? I’m awfully sweaty, myself.” He actually wriggled deeper into the cushions before saying that he was fine, thanks honey. – Not a Life-or-Death Question
Agh! It is life-or-death! At least, if I were your mate, and if you had something to say to me, and you non-said it to me in that non-saying way, after a few years of this I would do myself in.
1. Out loud: “Ew, you’re sweating all over the couch!”
Or, 2. To yourself, “Ew, he’s sweating all over the couch! But I guess there are worse things, so I’ll keep my mouth shut and save my complaints for when it matters.”
Dear Carolyn: I have a happy life (great relationship, good job, lots of hobbies, etc.) but I feel so critical toward other people when they don’t act as I would. I’m getting especially judgemental of my friends as we get older (late 30s) and they keep making the same mistakes they’ve made for 20 years, like bad financial decisions. Any tips for cultivating a more laid back “live and let live” attitude? – Anonymous
It’s OK, you spelled judgmental wrong.
Which I point out only to make a point. It does sound like you’re being rough on your friends, yes, but it also sounds like your friends are making mistakes – which can give the impression that they need correcting, or that they’re asking you to put up with a lot, or that you need new friends.
All of these are probably true to some extent, but the real difference between being judgmental and live-and-let-live is humility. You need it. A happy life (great relationship, good job, lots of hobbies, etc.) is something in which to take pride, but there has to be a line where the pride leaves off and a respect for life’s fickleness kicks in. People can make great decisions and get hit by a bus, and they can smoke and live to 90. Make this your mantra as you feel the urge to judge or correct others who fall short by comparison with you.
If you try this and still think less of someone, then ask yourself whether his/her financial incompetence, or whatever, is really a matter for your friendship to encompass.
And if you still think less of that friend, then maybe the respect is too far gone (your fault or theirs, doesn’t matter) for you to call this a friend.
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