“why can’t you just _______ ?”

Fill in the blank. You’ve said it; you’ve thought it . . . heck, enough of you have said it to ME. And I’ve said it to others, or said it to people ABOUT others . . .

“Why can’t you be on time for work? Why can’t you just go to bed earlier? What is the problem?!”

(yeah, I do get that one a lot–thanks for asking! ;-p)

but how many times have I said it (or at least thought it) in regard to other people?

“Why can’t you get your paperwork done? Don’t you worry about losing your job?”

“Why doesn’t she just leave him if he’s such a loser?”

“Why do you keep buying more stuff if you know you’re already in debt?”

“Why did you buy a new outfit and not pay your electric bill?”

“Why doesn’t she just get a different job/car/man/church already?”

We ask this question because we are truly bewildered/exasperated. We fail to understand because we cannot wrap our minds around the fact that this person is that different than ourselves. The “why” we are asking about is something that pushes the limits of our ability to empathize . . . the thing that the person is doing, or not doing, is incomprehensible to us, because “I just couldn’t do it” or “I just couldn’t live that way.”

And the sad thing is, not only is it infeasible for me to do (or not do) the thing you are bewildered about, I also cannot tell you “why” I cannot behave as you surely would if you were me.

I can only respond in one way, and in doing so, I know that I will automatically be accused of “making excuses” or “copping out” (the classic “therapy comeback” from a shrink tends to be, “You can’t or you won’t?”-because of course everything we do is about us being subconsciously passive-aggressive and doing things merely to piss other people off). But I use the response anyway, because I don’t know what else to say . . . we will never “get” each other . . . something inherent in being human, I suppose.

So until I figure something else out, my response will continue to be:

“If I could, don’t you think I would have done it already?”

The assumption is always that there is some willfulness involved, but the fact of the matter is that those of us who have this question thrown at us are well aware of our defects in these areas and despise these things in ourselves almost as much as you do. and maybe even more so, since we have to live with being in our own skin.

Call it a cop out if you must. It’s okay. I know you don’t understand, and I have no idea how to even begin to help you understand.

I just have to ask you to trust me when I say that it’s nowhere near as easy as it might seem from where you’re standing . . . and I will try really hard to do the same for you.

3 thoughts on ““why can’t you just _______ ?”

  1. In my case it would be “why can’t you keep/find a job?” I know of what you speak-believe me. I try to be understanding because I have been judged so harshly in the past but I still say it.

  2. Being in a relationship- definitely makes me aware of things I “cant” do and the same for things Tim “can’t” do. We accept that of each other- I think (for me) if the consequences were great- I think I could change, but who knows. Hopefully I am not judgy judgerson.

  3. I still can’t get over “grown-up Max”. Just thought I’d share that šŸ˜‰

    what do you and Tim ask each other? “Why can’t you just cook a ten-course meal exactly as Martha would have?”


    I don’t think I’ve met judgy judgerson . . . oh wait. I *am* her.

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