Living abroad challenges your ability to withhold judgment because you are confronted with so many cultural differences on a minute by daily basis. At home it is, of course, still challenging to not make judgments on what people chose to do or not do. It’s hard not to think that the women who looks like she just slid out of bed and is shopping in her pjs is not a complete and destitute slob with the conceit of a sewer rat. For example.

But it’s easy not to judge your friends. You friends tell you crazy stories of how they cheated on their spouses and suddenly your cup is overflowing and abundant in understanding, compassion and goodwill. I mean this is the benchmark of a good friend; someone who will listen to you and not look at you like the morally deprived soul that you are. Your true friend won’t blabber your dirty secrets and open your skeleton closet for another to see.

But the girl in her pjs is yours for the taking. The mother dressed like a harlot, the guy racing down the road on his dirt bike setting off car alarms with wild abandon, the loud walker, the loud talker, the people that you know but don’t really know at work, church and school. It’s really an interesting line we draw – governments, societies, communities and our children do this all the time too.

One of the things that really pissed me off when I was working at a dysfunctional private school was the adults didn’t follow the same rules that they imposed on the children. Don’t talk about other people. It’s rude. It’s not nice. But then the parents and faculty would gossip, snicker and whisper as if they were at King Henry VIII’s court. You could almost see the beheadings coming and watch them during those dark days. I should know gossip got me fired.

Prior to that experience I don’t think I thought too much on what we say about one another. If I was annoyed then it probably had to do with me not wanting to hear someone else complain about somebody. But after it, I moved further and father away from coworkers and people who enjoy a good rousing session of gossip. What can I say – bitch-sessions are not called bitch sessions because people are bitching but because they are the bitches.

This is not to say I didn’t or don’t talk about other people. But I try to think about where these thoughts or feelings are coming from. Do I need to vent? Do I need someone to give me a different perspective on a problem? Could I say this to the person’s face? Am I passing along hearsay? Does really need to be said? And who am I saying this to? In other words, I try to think before I speak. I try. Buddha help me, I try.

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