Judging Harry and Meghan.
Why do so many people assume they know better?
I tried unsuccessfully to restrain myself, but I must jump into the Harry-Meghan/Royal family fray. As irrelevant as it is to my life, I find myself avidly reading every article and perusing every picture. It's great escapism and a fascinating distraction. But I think there’s something more, something that is not unique to this particular couple and something that does impact all our lives.
What strikes me about the response to their decision to remove themselves from royal duties is the stern, judgmental nature of it. The criticisms of the royal couple seem to be unending, the media and even individuals on Instagram etc., relentless.
I don’t know if they’re making a good decision or bad one, a right one or wrong one but many others seem so sure. And their position always seems to imply not only that they (the observers who aren’t living their lives, who aren’t inside their world) know better. This is not just true of Harry and Meghan but of every famous person. We live in a world where ruthless negative judgments reign. And I believe this extends to individuals in our private lives as well. We can’t turn it on and off. If we are so quick to criticize people we don’t even know, I can only imagine our certainty about and our eagerness to attack those we do.
What I continue to wonder about this – whether it’s in the political arena, the Hollywood crowd, the Royal family or our personal relationships – is why we do this. Why are we so sure we understand the lives of others? Why are we so convinced they are wrong? Where is our compassion?
When we look at our own lives, do we see only perfection and complete consistency? Do we recognize the need to cut ourselves some slack, that sometimes we make decisions too quickly, that occasionally we may speak without thinking, that we could even be insensitive on occasion? Why don’t we extend this same courtesy and consideration to others?
The Talmud suggests that the things that most bother us in others are the things that most bother us in ourselves (or as my husband likes to say, “The politician that screams the loudest about family values is most likely to be caught in a hotel room in Las Vegas with…”). I think that’s true. But I think we can take it even further. We live in the age of customer reviews and reality shows and televised competitions and we’ve become inured to the pain of criticism, to the humiliation and embarrassment – at least when it comes to others. We think it’s funny; it’s entertainment; they asked for it by being public figures.
We are very sophisticated in our rationalizations, but the bottom line remains the same: We are very quick to judge; we leap to criticism; we are unforgiving. And we think that’s okay; we may even think it’s appropriate.
I think the test of this attitude would be if that same lens were turned on us. We might discover that we do indeed have some flaws, we do indeed make some mistakes and it’s actually quite hurtful when they’re aired publicly.
My information about Harry and Meghan comes from the same tabloids (I mean news sources) that everyone else is reading. I make no claim to privileged information. But I try to find some understanding and compassion for them, especially for Harry whose childhood trauma of losing his mother under circumstances that would of necessity make him publicity-shy must surely have shaped his adult responses.
And I think it behooves all of us to do the same. I recently read that there is a group of women in Jerusalem who meet regularly to draw up lists of reasons to judge someone favorably so that when the time comes and they are in a situation where they are tempted not to do so, they can turn to their list and rise above the temptation. I was blown away by this phenomenon and I think we should try the same thing here.
Wouldn’t it be nice to create a list of reasons to be compassionate towards another human being, reasons to treat them with love and understanding instead of scorn and rancor? Wouldn’t it be a good habit to sit around and think of reasons to look for the positive in every human being?
We are told that the Almighty judges us the way we judge others. Based on this crucial idea, I wouldn’t want to be a reporter for many of today’s media outlets. And I would like to create that list of justifications for exercising compassion. It may begin with Harry and Meghan, but I hope it ends with the people who I truly do know and love.