Making compassion my first response

Last week I was at Kohl’s and as I walked in the door, there was a girl having a meltdown. She looked to be about 10 years old. I am talking about a screaming, stomping, full-on tantrum. Also, at the front of the store were some shoppers talking about how ridiculous her behavior was. She very well could just be a poorly behaved 10-year-old, but I didn’t know the whole story to make any judgement.

I don’t know if the girl has developmental delays that aren’t observable to someone walking by. I don’t know if she is dealing with major life transitions that she shouldn’t have to deal with at her age. She could be dealing with any number of issues that are causing the meltdown. The point is that I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

It is so easy to judge the girl and her parents based on one 2-minute experience. I am guilty of doing that, but I try so hard to remind myself I don’t know the whole story. What if in the moment of watching the meltdown unfold, I found out the whole story? Would it change my perspective on what is happening? Would I suddenly shift from judgment to compassion? Oh, how I wish compassion was my first response.

Lately, when I am feeling judgmental about something another parent is doing, I try to stop myself and ask why? Why does it matter that they are doing something different from me? Why might their life circumstances be different than mine, therefore changing the way they parent? Why does it bother me?

Here’s the thing: I have a lot of good moments of parenting; I also have a lot of bad moments. If people were only seeing one of those bad moments, what would they be thinking? Would they think they have the whole story?

Yes, there are times someone is just wrong in how they are treating their child — I am not talking about abuse or neglect; I am talking about the little not-so-good judgments we make through out our days. But I want to be someone who errs on the side of compassion. I want my first reaction to be grace and compassion, and when it isn’t, I want to consciously remind myself that I don’t know the whole story.

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