Thursday, July 21, 2022

Autism Answer: Don't Judge, But Also Do Ask For Change

A pic of my oldest son with words he wrote about judging

I know, I know, I know: if I'm not judging you then I must be okay with everything you do, right? I mean, I don't judge. You do you.

Sometimes, that works fine. If I'm not judging you I can still choose to walk away, to judge your behaviors and beliefs as not for me, not my jam.

But what about my kids? My grand-kids? My closest friends and family? Do I just let them do whatever the heck they want without asking for, teaching, and insisting on change? Nope. Obviously that doesn't make sense. It doesn't connect us, it doesn't help us help each other. 

And it sets us up for being abusive and being abused. 

It's often not easy or obvious, and for sure mistakes will be made, but we should remember that asking for change, or teaching a different way to be, is not inherently judgmental, critical, or fault-finding. It can be, when we're being intolerant and hence telling a person to be a different person. But it isn't true that if we are not judgemental we won't ask people to shift, change, grow.

In fact, when you ask yourself to shift, change, and grow you may notice you do your best work when not sitting in judgement of yourself but, rather, seeing where your habits, behaviors, and beliefs are hindering or hurting you and trusting yourself to make changes. It is beautiful. It is an evolving of yourself that you influence. Not by hating something about you but, rather, by choosing a new thing. When you're busy hating a thing, you keep it alive. You feed it and give it power. It keeps you busy hating it and there's less time for changing it. When you instead see it as a hindrance, or something you were mistaken to believe, or something that once helped you but now hurts you, you more easily move on. (Er, more easily. Not always easily.)

We can do that with our loved ones. Growing up with autistic brothers gave me a unique perspective. Actually, it was growing up with autistic brothers and a mom with unique perspectives that gave me a unique perspective. But I saw first hand the differences between experts being fake nice with my brothers, judging them as less than or broken inside, while trying to force them to be different people vs my mom who saw them as born beautiful, burdened with overwhelming challenges, finding ways to handle those challenges that were, sometimes, less than ideal, and worth all the hard work and curious nature she could muster to help them be them, but in healthier safer ways. She raised the bar with my brothers and insisted they could be successful. She was almost merciless in her insistence, but she always considered who they were and what they wanted as she urged them to shift, change, and grow.

It's hard to explain the difference, but it is all the difference. Seeing people as generally awesome inside, navigating their world, the world their body and environment provides, and probably needing help from others along the way, is a non-judgemental view. We all need help from others along the way. Which is wonderful. That's how we learn about others.

Seeing different people with different styles as different rather than wrong is what we're after, I think, but that doesn't mean we can't ask for change. For growth.

Silly example:

When I was thirteen my mom confronted me about something, I don't remember what, but I know it had to do with my behavior at the time. I responded in a fun way. I chose to punch her over and over again on her thigh while screaming, "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" I was mature for my age. tee hee!

Anyway, she didn't say it was okay for me to do that. But she also didn't think I was bad or wrong for doing that. She reached into my torment and asked why I was doing that, made sure I knew I must never again do that, and helped me figure out a different way to navigate my pain. (Our pain? I did punch her.)

This. This is what it can be to love someone without judgment but with expectations of change.

It worked, too. I never said mean things to her ever again. (Mom, if you're reading this, pretend with me, kay? giggle!)

This is my long winded way of attempting to remind us of the thing I often need reminding of: It is okay to ask someone you love to change. It is okay to ask someone, including yourself, to behave differently. It is more than okay. It is what love often looks like. It is necessary, I believe, to practice knowing when to do so and knowing not to hate or think bad and wrong of the person, or even the behaviors, you are hoping to change. The behaviors are all symptoms and clues. The person is the seed.

Also, it is necessary to practice being open to the possibility that we ourselves are the one who may want to change. I can't tell you how often I would be asking a brother to change, to be more like something I thought was better, when suddenly I'd realize this was not one of those times when I knew better. This was me asking him to be different for my convenience.

Note: I said "I can't tell you how many times..." but if you look through my blog you will see that I have certainly tried!

Anyway, long story short: Don't judge the people you love, including yourself, but do believe in and teach change.

I guess I could have just said that, huh?

Hugs, smiles, and love!!