Critically Speaking

Crit-i-cal Think-ing: the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

It seems so easy right?  AND IT IS……all except for that cranky little word, “objective.”  Objective defined is: (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts. To further drive this home, the common synonyms for objective are impartial, unbiased, unprejudiced, nonpartisan, detached, impersonal, unemotional, and clinical.  


For me this world of objective thinking was cracked wide open when I went back to school after the birth of my amazing daughter, Fiona.  English 102 – writing the argumentative paper, to be specific.

I took a fast track class that required me to dedicate an entire Friday every week to finish the class in 6 weeks.  Oh youth, and ambition how I miss thee! Little did I know I would need those long inescapable hours in a seemingly mundane class to begin to shape the person I am today.  That morning the teacher had asked a brave few to share a point of view we were passionate about, then she presented the counterargument. Oof. It took my wide-swinging pendulum of “right” and “wrong” and made it much narrower, where right and wrong were walking much closer together, and the bold line between the two had become softer.  

When we were forced to stop and really look at the reasons why someone might feel opposite, light was shed on how their position was taken.  Up until this point in my life, in my beliefs and in my thoughts there was the right way to do things and the wrong way, with little to no room for middle ground.  Even in writing this, I could come up with several arguments that I could give labels right and wrong to – which I did, then I promptly erased them. When I read through some of the things I wrote, I realized that I just repackaged the same things we are always debating, and I don’t want my point to be lost because we disagree on a hot topic debate.  However, I will speak from my experience of doing some reevaluating in my own journey because of having to “wear the shoe on the other foot.”

I used to see people who lived on welfare as lazy, “milking the system”, and living off of my countrymen’s hard earned tax dollars – that was until I had to be one of those people.  My classification system was severely interrupted when I had to go to the welfare office and lay my soul bare. Up until this point my husband and I were doing everything “right, “ we were living the American dream, building our careers, buying a house, having our 2.5 kids, etc. and boom, the rug was ripped out from under us.  Our children were sick, nay, dying of something genetic, something incurable. Not even John Hopkins would look at them and they were studying the dang disease! We had to get creative with medical care because the first string of doctors wouldn’t see us and the second string were the first string’s proteges. There were no second opinions or feel-good endings.  Looking back it felt like we were braving a long winter only equipped with a suitcase packed for the beach.

On top of everything that was happening medically and emotionally we were taking hits financially on the daily.  It wasn’t just one thing, it was all the things – bottom line – life costs money to live. We were young and not prepared for the hits life was dealing us in any way, shape, or form, and we needed help.  After doing everything to avoid it, we convinced ourselves that this is what welfare was for – the hard times. After all, we told ourselves we had payed into the system.

We found ourselves sitting in a waiting room with all of the people we had judged so harshly before.  We were equals at that moment – they were not less than us, they were not people looking for a hand-out, they were not so-called illegals milking our country.  We were all just trying to survive. We were all in a desperate situation and out of solutions. We all had come to this office seeking help. They were us, and we were them.  I can hear the arguments and the judgements, but bottom line, not one of us wanted to be there. I’m sure that no one wants to sit in the welfare office waiting room. If you still think so after sitting in one for hours on end, really seeing the people there, and hearing their stories then you need to go back and sit and listen some more.  I’ll bet not one person there thought this is how it was going to be.

We were lucky enough to get the help through welfare we needed at the time, and the resources and support system to get back up on our feet again.  It is not lost on me that many of the sweet people in that waiting on that day were not as fortunate. Funny thing about welfare is once you hit the point of needing it, it is VERY hard to climb out of.  It is a broken system helping broken people. I could see that it might even be impossible to leave if you do not have anyone in your corner. As hard as that time was, I am thankful for what it showed me.  

A few years later, stepping into English 102 as a broken woman with a broken faith and broken ideals, still trying to set my jaw and stand up for what was “right,” I was presented with the possibility that EVERYTHING that we are trying to tease out, has its own set of outliers.  No matter how menial or grand the idea, if you have based your whole life on fighting for one thing, or a list of things, or a platform, or a people – there will always an opposing view, a differing experience, and a passionate fight for the other side. I found that in six weeks of taking a beat to listen, learn, and respect the other side, I began to see their “right” rather than just their “wrong.”  
To try and begin to wrap this up, I want to share this quote from Brene’ Brown, “People are hard to hate close-up…”  This is a revelation to me, a thought that cannot be easily dismissed.  It seems to apply to nearly everything, and everyone. It is hard for me to judge you when I know you, when I care about you, when I hear your story, your heart, your sadness, your joy, your mistakes and your successes.  You don’t have to like everyone, neither do you have to agree with everyone, but I do think you have to realize that everyone has the same value by just being a part of God’s human creation, and because of that, every story deserves to be heard.  Your opinion is not more valuable just because you hold it.  Recognize that there are many voices out there, everything is not simply black or white, “right” or “wrong.”  Let’s start respecting each other. Let’s start listening with compassion and empathy – rather than judgement and anger.  Let’s lead our lives with love and kindness. Let’s move closer to each other – rather than finding more ways to divide.

I am worth it.  You are worth it. We are worth it.

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