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Julie VanSpall – Home Front

Check your inner snob

Voices Feb. 13, 2019

We must avoid making assumptions and closely examine our personal responses to others. As Bishop Robert Barron reminds us, “we are exceptionally good at seeing the fault in others, but we are exceptionally adept at ignoring it in ourselves.” (Flickr/Simon_Sees)

Aren’t we all experts in our own minds? I think most of us tend to feel we are “right.”

I’ll admit I can be a snob about certain things. I usually only share my opinions in closed circles, but they are strong. Having said this, experience has taught me to become much more open-minded.

For instance, as young parent, I was annoyed when children brought sippy cups and lunch boxes to church. Yes, I brought finger foods as distractions for our toddlers, offering one or two Cheerios at a time to offer an incentive to behave. The children had eaten at home, so they weren’t hungry, but chewing kept them quiet. For us, food was merely a discipline tactic and we didn’t want Mass to be regarded as a form of “dinner theatre” for our children. So, because I thought I was “right,” I tended to judge those who acted differently.

Then, one Sunday we overslept. My two-year-old didn’t have time to eat breakfast before Mass, so we grabbed her milk cup, more dry cereal than usual, and took her meal to-go.

I was mortified, mostly because I feared the judgment of others (or perhaps I feared the judgment of myself).  In the end, however, my child was content for the duration of Mass, and while this behaviour didn’t become our norm, I realized that everyone has reasons for their choices, even regarding food at Mass.

A friend shared a similar, albeit more serious, story with me. As the mother of boys, she was very aware of the etiquette surrounding males removing hats in certain venues, including church. With her older boys, this was an easy thing to teach; however, her youngest son was born with a visual impairment, rendering him incapable of filtering light the way most people do. As a result, he must wear sunglasses, tinted glasses, a ball cap, or any combination of the above – even indoors – depending on the level of light. One Sunday, trying to do the “right” thing, she made him remove his hat for Mass. The poor boy was reduced to tears, in pain from the light.

From that moment on, my friend realized while men’s hats may not be welcome in church, her little boy definitely is. If the only way he can attend Mass in comfort and keep his eyes open to see some of what is happening is to wear a hat, then he wears his hat. Unfortunately, she still worries that others judge her, assuming she is not teaching her son manners. Sadly, I realize she is probably correct.

Jesus asked, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Mt 7: 5) Bishop Robert Barron reminds us “we are exceptionally good at seeing the fault in others, but we are exceptionally adept at ignoring it in ourselves.”

Examples of adeptly ignoring our own faults are making assumptions and judging others, without knowing the full story. Of course, there are many circumstances, besides eating at certain times or wearing hats in certain places, that tend to be criticized in ignorance.  

When people with sensory disorders become over-stimulated by crowds or music in church, they may need to walk to the back. Smile and make them feel welcome at Mass.

When people with allergies refrain from eating at a party, they are being safe, not impolite. Graciously accept their “No, thank you.”

When those with processing disabilities need to have instructions repeated more than once, patiently repeat yourself.

When someone who has just received devastating news or suffers from depression offers a terse response to our well-intended question, it may be the best they can offer in that moment. We don’t always know the backstory; just be there.

Whether people have life-long challenges, or are simply having a bad day, we must remember that we are all doing the best we can. Regardless of our personal opinions or preferences, the “right” thing will always be to ask, “Will my body language or tone of voice convey love or critical judgement?”

We should be able to trust our answers to dictate our ensuing actions; after all, aren’t we experts?

 

I’ll admit that I can be a snob about certain things. I usually only share my opinions in closed circles, but they are strong. Having said this, experience has taught me to become much more open-minded.

For instance, as young parent, I was annoyed when children brought sippy cups and lunch boxes to church. Yes, I brought finger foods as distractions for our toddlers, offering one or two Cheerios at a time to offer an incentive to behave. The children had eaten at home, so they weren’t hungry, but chewing kept them quiet. For us, food was merely a discipline tactic and we didn’t want Mass to be regarded as a form of “dinner theatre” for our children. So, because I thought I was “right,” I tended to judge those who acted differently.

Then, one Sunday we overslept. My two-year-old didn’t have time to eat breakfast before Mass, so we grabbed her milk cup, more dry cereal than usual, and took her meal to-go. I was mortified, mostly because I feared the judgement of others (or perhaps I feared the judgement of myself).  In the end, however, my child was content for the duration of Mass, and while this behaviour didn’t become our norm, I realized that everyone has reasons for their choices, even regarding food at Mass.

A friend shared a similar, albeit more serious, story with me. As the mother of boys, she was very aware of the etiquette surrounding males removing hats in certain venues, including church. With her older boys, this was an easy thing to teach; however, her youngest son was born with a visual impairment, rendering him incapable of filtering light the way most people do. As a result, he must wear sunglasses, tinted glasses, a ball cap, or any combination of the above - even indoors - depending on the level of light. One Sunday, trying to do the “right” thing, she made him remove his hat for Mass. The poor boy was reduced to tears, in pain from the light.

From that moment on, my friend realized that while men’s hats may not be welcome in church, her little boy definitely is. If the only way he can attend Mass in comfort and keep his eyes open to see some of what is happening is to wear a hat, then he wears his hat. Unfortunately, she still worries that others judge her, assuming she is not teaching her son manners. Sadly, I realize that she is probably correct.

Jesus asked, “’Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?’” (Matt. 7: 5) Bishop Robert Barron reminds us that “we are exceptionally good at seeing the fault in others, but we are exceptionally adept at ignoring it in ourselves.”

Examples of adeptly ignoring our own faults are making assumptions and judging others, without knowing the full story. Of course, there are many circumstances, besides eating at certain times or wearing hats in certain places, which tend to be criticized in ignorance.  

When people with sensory disorders become over-stimulated by crowds or music in church, they may need to walk to the back. Smile and make them feel welcome at Mass.

When people with allergies refrain from eating at a party, they are being safe, not impolite. Graciously accept their “No, thank you.”

When those with processing disabilities need to have instructions repeated more than once, patiently repeat yourself.

When one who has just received devastating news, or who suffers from depression, offers a terse response to our well-intended question, it may be the best they can offer in that moment. We don’t always know the backstory; just be there.

Whether people have life-long challenges, or are simply having a bad day, we must remember that we are all doing the best we can. Regardless of our personal opinions or preferences, the “right” thing will always be to ask, “Will my body language or tone of voice convey love or critical judgement?”

We should be able to trust our answers to dictate our ensuing actions; after all, aren’t we experts?