When you judge another you don't define them, you define yourself ~ Wayne Dyer
I wanna tell you all a story...
In a follow up to my last blog on writing your own story I want to explore the topic of judging others a bit more. In 1968 Jeanne C . Riley struck a few chords with her hit "Harper Valley PTA" In this song penned by Tom T. Hall, Mrs. Johnson (the Harper Valley widowed wife in the song) calls out her local school board after her daughter is sent home from school with a note challenging her parenting skills. The Harper Valley PTA believed that Mrs. Johnson's scandalous behavior was negatively effecting her daughter:
"Mrs. Johnson, you're wearing your dresses way too high.
It's reported you've been drinkin' and a runnin' round with men and goin' wild.
And we don't believe you oughta be a bringin' up your little girl this way."
And it was signed by the secretary, "Harper Valley PTA"
As an "only" parent myself I can relate to the anger that Mrs. Johnson feels in these lyrics. So many times well meaning people share their thoughts believing they are helping when really their advice, based upon their own actions, is hypocritical. The fact is many times when a person passes judgement on someone they are projecting their shortcomings onto others. Everything we judge in others is something within ourselves that we don't want to face. Often we see and hear people encouraging others to be themselves but then as soon as they express that freedom they are quickly judged. Interestingly the people that are quick to judge are often too afraid to be themselves, fearful of the culture that they themselves have created. Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others. When people project their shortcomings onto others they do so to make themselves feel better at another's expense.
As Mrs. Johnson goes on to point out in the song:
"Well, there's Bobby Taylor sittin' there, and seven times he's asked me for a date.
And Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lotta ice, whenever he's away.
And Mr. Baker can you tell us why your secretary had to leave this town?
And shouldn't widow Jones be told to keep her window shades all pulled completely down?
Well Mr. Harper couldn't be here cause he stayed too long at Kelly's Bar again.
And if you smell Shirley Thompson's breath you'll find she's had a little nip of gin.
And then you have the nerve to tell me, you think that as a mother I'm not fit.
Well this is just a little Peyton Place, and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites.
A few side notes for the music history fans:
This song was based on a true story. Said the songwriter: "I chose the story to make a statement but I changed the names to protect the innocent. There were 10 kids in our family. We'd get up in the morning and my mother and father would get bored with us running around and we'd go terrorize the neighbors up and down this little road we lived on. After we had done our chores, of course. I was just hanging around downtown when I was about nine years old and heard the story and got to know this lady. I was fascinated by her grit. To see this very insignificant, socially disenfranchised lady - a single mother - who was willing to march down to the local aristocracy and read them the riot act so to speak, was fascinating."
This song won the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Vocal Performance. It was also voted the Single of the Year by the Country Music Association. This song topped both the Pop and Country charts in America, the first song by a female country artist to achieve this feat. This wouldn't happen again until Dolly Parton's 1981 hit "9 to 5". There was also a "Return to Harper Valley PTA" that was recorded in 1984: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLEZ-0_I66c
The message in this song really comes down to "walking a mile in my shoes". We do not know where others "shoes" have been and we would all be better served by loving more and judging less. Mrs. Johnson boldly stands up (and very publicly) for herself and confronts her critics face to face.
Is there a Harper Valley PTA that you need to address?
Love one another, don't judge one another.