Am I judging you? – On learning to be responsible only for *my* actions – (part 1/2)

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while because I think it’s a really important issue: the idea that we must not judge what other people do but only trying our (current) best (and even that can change from day to day).

Whether it’s about what we eat, what we wear, what goes into our bin, or what (if any) car we drive – it’s easy to judge people. To compare ourselves to others and to want to go up to them and tell them to “just do a bit more already”! And I’m not going to pretend like I don’t sometimes feel like despairing when I see people double bag their shopping, or just drop rubbish on the street – it just doesn’t make any sense to me.
But what I’ve been learning since starting my own near-0 waste journey (since I can neither claim to be fully plastic or waste free, I’m reluctant to say “zero waste”), is that judging people neither works not helps.

I don’t know what goes on in the life of another person to make them do something I might judge as bad. I don’t know if they’re having a really hard time right now, or if they even know about the impact of their action – I for my part didn’t have any idea about e.g. the impact of plastic or animal products (more on that coming soon) until I started looking into it, and to be honest: life was easier before I learned about plastic islands in the oceans and deforestation and the ethical issues of waste disposal…

And so I’ve come to this conclusion: I’m going to try to not judge people for what they do, even – or maybe especially – when I think I can see where they could try harder. And I’m going to try to find ways to change that I can actually keep doing, i.e. something I can actually incorporate into my life long-term, not something that’ll burn me out after a few weeks… And I’m going to try to gently educate others about ways in which they could live with less rubbish (like bringing their own shopping bags or basket, storing food in glass jars, checking to see what can be recycled and putting it into the recycling bin, becoming aware of and switching out any disposable items etc…).

Because in the end, judging people isn’t going to change behaviour, it’s not going to save the planet, it’s not going to reduce our carbon footprints, it’s not going to help humanity grow. So let’s stop judging people (including ourselves!) and get on with taking the actions needed to create a more sustainable future…

Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.
(Bahá’u’lláh)

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