“Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5 HCSB
Many will find this verse familiar, yet few honor its intent.Judging others is all too common in our society, most often while overlooking our own faults.Or similar to a magician’s sleight of hand, our criticism of others may serve to distract from that which we do not want seen.It is significantly easier to avoid looking at my own shortcomings while harping on those of others.Unfortunately, the result of such behavior builds resentment in relationships, and rarely effects change in whatever is being criticized.
Assuming a position of judgment requires holding oneself above the other.Consider who gets to decide right or wrong for people: judges on a bench; parents and teachers for children; police officers in the line of duty.In each above example, one person holds power, or a position of authority over the other person.In each, there is a societal expectation that the judgment be used in a responsible way that produces change in undesirable behavior.
When people criticize others, it is rarely from a position of responsible authority.Regardless of the reason one might rationalize their behaviors, it is most often the result of a learned behavior that masks their own perceived inadequacies.The behavior is so very common between intimate partners, between friends, observing strangers, and in school hallways that people don’t routinely think twice about doing it.Unless they are on the receiving end.
This judgment in milder forms comes across as negativity or criticism.In more extreme variants, it is bullying.Harper Lee penned “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Regardless of one’s intent, we cannot know what is going on unnoticed in people’s lives, or the impact the most carelessly spoken words might have on them.It is true that only I am responsible for what I think, how I feel, and for my behaviors, but I realize that most people do not think that way.
John Gottman, a renowned relationship expert, lists criticism and contempt as half of the Four Horsemen relationship apocalypses.Each of these are manifest in the way people often judge others.Rarely is empathy or compassion a component of the communicated message.
The privileged attitude of judgment and lack of compassion inherent in judgmental positions are requirements for much of the wrong done in this world.It violates the rights of others, presumes to know better than the other person, and usually places attention on some trait or behavior the person is well aware of, a vulnerability known to the attacker and exploited for some immediate personal gain.
The word attacker isn’t used accidentally.The manner in which our judgment is often delivered qualifies as emotional abuse.Emotional abuse is any behavior that is meant to control and subjugate another through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal assaults. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation and manipulation.
No person’s worth is greater than another.No person deserves tyranny from another.Standing in judgment of others yields no good result.
Military families are special. They weather storms that families outside of the military rarely experience, and are often much stronger for it. Besides the obvious impact of deployments and reintegrations, military families often face the additional stressors of frequent moves, non-traditional work hours, and unit training cycles. Spouses often have difficulty finding meaningful employment. Civilian families are significantly less likely to deal with untimely death, significant physical injuries or mental health conditions than those families tied to military service-members. Military couples often marry significantly younger and have children earlier than their non-serving counterparts. Military families are often geographically separated from their extended family and other traditional support systems. Even as I type this, and reflect on my own military family, I recognize that these additional challenges we face are something that we don’t pay a whole lot of attention to, somewhat shortchanging the strengths we do have to be resilient in spite of them.
Successful marriages require a great deal of effort for anyone, and perhaps even more commitment for those holding Department of Defense ID cards. The principles for making marriages last hold true regardless of affiliation with the military.
One well-known marriage expert discusses the concept of an emotional bank account. Supportive, validating interactions are like making a deposit into the checking account, and negative, self-serving interactions are like making a withdrawal. 40 years of research shows that couples who don’t divorce have a rich account balance, because they make five deposits for every withdrawal. The return on investment is happiness and a sense of stability. The result of this 5:1 ratio is that the “normal” for families is overall positive, with less frequent negative interactions. Very simply, if I am happy and validated 80% of the time, I am less likely to interpret something my spouse does as negative.
There isn’t just one look for lasting couples. In fact, there are three types of stable, happy couples. Some are volatile, their relationship marked by strong emotion and direct communications. There’s no beating around the bush with these couples, and their conflicts are dramatic, but so is their passion for one another. These folks will try their best to convince their partner to accept their point of view. Another type of lasting couple is validating. This couple works together as a team through conflict, and place a priority on the relationship rather than on the conflict at hand. Emotional displays with this couple are moderate and timely, and rare. They work together to a compromise in conflict. The final type of lasting couple avoids conflict. They minimize how important issues may be, and focus instead on strengths of the relationship or their love for one another. In conflict, they will simply agree to disagree, and avoid the issue as much as possible.
Mismatched types are the places where perpetual problems occur. People in mismatched relationships may feel emotionally shut out or overwhelmed. Others might feel like there is no passion, always on guard or unheard. Other might believe they’ve married a crazy person or is simply unappreciated. Mismatched types in a couple aren’t doomed, they’ll just always have issues. What matters isn’t resolution of the conflict (it will likely always be there) but how people deal with not resolving the conflict.
Seeking a knowledgeable therapist can help families sort out how to work through perpetual problems. We seek acceptance from others as people, particularly those closest to us. Learn to accept your partner how they are, rather than how you’d prefer them to be.