A Question of Standards–I’m not a swinger

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the subject of personal standards, and more so the issue of judging others by one’s own personal standards. 
Firstly, let me define what a personal standard even is, exactly. To put it directly, it is a set of principles in which everyone uses to process their own experience and interpret the meaning, or quality, of their actions, and their impact, in the world around them. Everyone’s personal standards are unique and different to themselves. To put it more simply, it is the rules by which each person conducts themselves in society. 

Vague? Yes. But it is supposed to be. Personal standards shift from person to person, according to their experiences, culture, rearing, or worldview. Blanketly, personal standards are inherently personal. (Duh!)

Now, what I’m really wanting to blog about is the concept of judging other people by our own personal standards. 

Storytime

When I was about seven or eight years old, I was alone in my 1st grade teacher, Sister Davita’s classroom with her. She was helping me during recess with my horrible reading skills. (Yes, I was a slow reader!) That day, I was counting through a handful of sticky, crumpled $1 bills and loose nickels on my lap, when it struck me that I really needed to go to the bathroom. So I asked my dear Sister if I could be excused, and she nodded a yes. So, I unloaded my money onto the corner of her desk and went to the restroom. 

When I got back, Sister had a soft smile on her face and said, “You really are such a good little girl!” I was confused, and shy…so I just to nodded in agreement. She continued, “You see, children always judge others by their own standards,” she said. “and here you are leaving all your money with me and walking away. You didn’t even consider that your money could get stolen, did you?” 

And, of course, she’s right, it never occurred to me that anyone, let alone my teacher, would ever rob me. 

“That’s how I know you aren’t a thief. You wouldn’t ever take anything that wasn’t yours, would you?” she asked.

She was right. I wouldn’t. At that age it never occurred to me that I should. Stealing was wholly unfair, wrong, and my Catholic guilt wouldn’t allow it. She was right also that it wasn’t even a thought to me that anyone else would, or could bring themselves, to rob me in return. Why would they? Stealing is what bad people do, and I’ve never met a bad person. Stealing is wrong, and I just knew that everyone else knew that, after all! The innocence of a child? Naive? Maybe, stupid? Whatever it was, it just never occurred to me that others could be thinking or feeling things different from myself.

Sister Davita then gathered up my money and handed it to me and said, “But, from now on, always make sure you keep your valuables secured and don’t leave them unattended. Not everyone is a dear-heart like you.”

That stuck with me, not everyone is like you. One of my first lessons in empathy.

And this is the cornerstone of personal standards, and the concept of judging others by our own personal standards. 

You see there’s something inherently childish about judging others by our own standards. Most children take people at face value. Most children don’t have a laundry list of nefarious plots. This is why we worry about kids being wisked off the playground by grinning strangers with promises of free candy and a pool full of puppies to play with. We try to break children of the delusion that everyone is as innocent as them quickly, and for their own safety. We teach them a sort of self-preserving emathy–we encourage them to think about what if people weren’t as nice as them?

But what of adults who judge, for better or worse, others by their own standards? 

My thought is that this behavior is an arrested development of sorts.

For good or bad, whether you are dealing with a naive mark that takes everyone at face value and suffers scams and abuses because of it, or if you are dealing with someone who assumes everyone is lying to them because they themselves are pathological liars, you’re dealing with the same issue. Arrested development. Childishness. An under developed sense of empathy–empathy being the mechanism by which we identify other beings as being separate minds from our own, with their own personhoods. (I’m not speaking of sympathy, to be clear. Sympathy is feeling for others. Empathy is understanding how others feel.)

Judging others by our own personal standards is in a real sense denying the other person’s individuality, or right to personhood outside of ourselves. That in it of itself is the core of mental abuse–denying others their personhood. 

I say this because I’ve come across an issue in my own life that’s sort of pissed me off. Without names being named, there are a couple of people in the greater convention circuit that ascribe to a polygamous or polyamorous lifestyle. I’ve got no judgement for the choices they make in their personal lives. Boon to them.

However, I had become acquainted with a monogamous married couple a long while back and fallen into a mutually nurturing friendship with them. My husband gets along swell with them too. Boon to us.

Now the problem is that a few people who are not monogamous have the assumption that we must be “wife swapping” within this friendship. And, even gotten a little jealous that I’ve never thought of wife swapping with them in light of this revelation

But, they are misaken. I’m not polyamorous. I’m not a swinger. I’m monogamous. I’ve no interest in complicating my marriage. I’m perfectly happy with my arrangements as they are. This is what I want. And, no, I’m not required to give anyone a justification to why I prefer my life this way. Just as I’ve never ask polyamorous people I’ve met to give me an account for why they live the way they do. Nor, do I deserve to have anyone chatting at cons about how they think me and so-and-so might be having an affair because look how much time they spend together! 

Fuck off.

The inability to not judge others by your own standards has caused certain people to misinterpret genuine affection between friends, as sexual. They assume it must be sexual, because why else would anyone spend that much time together, or be that giving to one another, or that supportive, if they weren’t getting sex out of it?

This is appalling to me. It’s also under selling the value I place on my friendships.

This is arrested development. This is being so myopic, and blind in your own worldview that you can’t exercise empathy long enough to realize that not everyone thinks, feels, or wants what you want. Empathy is a skill that requires introspection. Thoughtfulness, and practice–you can get better, sharper, in empathy if you use it. Unused, and you’ll never see beyond your own experiences. But, so long as you stand behind the veil of your own personal standards, you can never peer out and realize the people around you aren’t you.



But, with all that being said, I hope for each and every one of my readers to have the self-awareness to embrace and practice true empathy–to not be clouded by their own worldviews so harshly that they can’t see others, truly. 

And, may you all find friendship that’s so lit that gossips think you might be swingers. ❤

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