Friday, September 14, 2012

Benefit of the Doubt

I admit it.  I am a pretty judgmental person. But I have one rule that softens my judgement on pretty much everybody. Its the benefit of the doubt. If I don't have much information, my rule of wrist is to give people the benefit of the doubt. I am well aware that its still pretty judgmental, but it keeps me away from bitterness or anger or thinking less of people for no reason.

What do I mean by this?

Lets say I see someone who is morbidly obese at the office, like 400+ lbs. My first thought is "how can they live like that??". My second thought though is that maybe they have a medical condition, or maybe they are working hard to lose weight. I am still being judgmental because I am putting my values on them (that being fat is bad), but instead of walking away thinking badly of them I don't factor in their weight to my opinion.

When my coworkers complain about something to do with government handouts, especially when its about a specific case, like there is a strange thing with birthdays or a female has pregnancies very close together. I have coworkers who jump to this being fraud or abuse of the system. I always am the one pointing out how coincidences with birthday happen or how sex education and birth control access are cuffed in this country.

I admit it. I do this other mothers a ton. I had a whole post I was working on about the Mommy Wars, but really what I really wanted to say comes down to this benefit of the doubt idea. There are some parenting things that are absolute to me (and many others that are not). I am pretty science driven. If there is scientific evidence about something that shows it is the best course of action, I am not one to say "oh but whatever is easiest for your family".  An example of this is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is absolutely the best way to feed a baby. No ifs, ands, or, buts about it, and I am not going to pretend it isn't just to keep from hurting someone's feelings. That said, if I meet a mother who formula feeds I do not immediately think that they are stupid or that they made the wrong decision, I do not think less of them in any way. I give them the benefit of the doubt. I assume that there is a good reason they cannot breastfeed (there are TONS of entirely valid reasons not to breastfeed). It is judgmental still, because I am assuming they WANTED to breastfeed. I am not being totally accepting or all lifestyle choices, and I don't want to be.

Maybe I will go off on a mommy war tangent. 

I probably can divide parenting questions into three categories.
(1) Things where scientific evidence shows one way is absolutely better. Example: Breastfeeding, smoking, etc.
(2) Things where there is little to no scientific evidence, or the evidence contradicts itself. Examples: methods of introducing food, allergy prevention, sleep methods, etc.
(3) Things where there is clear scientific evidence, but the effect is on the margin (the probability of the event in question happening is very low to being with). Example: car seat positioning (middle is safest but the percentage of accidents it matter in is miniscule), tv (lowers the risk of ADHD, but the risk is low to begin with and how much it lowers that risk is miniscule), SIDS recommendations (risk is tiny to begin with, and reductions in that risk even smaller), etc.

The first category I am going to judge people about, or make assumptions that give people the benefit of the doubt and keep me from judging them.
The second category I have my personal preferences, but I keep an open mind about and try not to assume anything or judge anything.
The third category... I used to be a bit more judgmental about these things, but I have loosened up quite a bit about them because they are so marginal, and parenting is hard enough without thinking you need to try and curb every single risk in life. You can't. So I don't judge which of these things people choose to follow and which they ignore. You have to ignore some of them or you will go insane.

There you go. That is my take on the mommy wars, and my take on judging other moms and people in general. I know that the whole "benefit of the doubt" thing might sound weird, but let me try to put it another way. When I meet someone new, I am bound to form an opinion about them, and any assumptions I am going to make in trying to form that opinion, I try to make them be as much in the new persons favor as possible. 

It might not be ideal, but it works for me, and it is shocking how often it puts me in the position of defending some cause or person I hardly know.

1 comment:

Allison said...

I actually completely understand what you're saying and do much of the same thing myself. I *do* judge the people who just decide not to breastfeed, even though it's hard to admit it. I *don't* judge the people who cannot breastfeed. And when I meet someone who is bottle feeding, I do try hard to make some assumptions that they tried and couldn't and not that they blatantly didn't try.