When Opinions & Judgments Get Tangled Up

The other day I read a piece by fellow blogger, Lori Marx-Rubiner called, “When a Patient Chooses a Different Path.” It’s an excellent piece of writing and I recommend that you read it if you haven’t. By the way, Lori also happens to be the new president of METAvivor Research and Support, an organization I whole-heartedly support. Yay, Lori! And Congrats too!

Lori’s article got me thinking about how we so often tangle up opinions with judgments.

Undoubtedly, judgment often happens because we feel strongly about our opinions and it becomes hard for us to even entertain another point of view, especially if it’s very different from our own.

When you live in Cancer-land as a new resident or as a more tenured citizen like me, you see examples of this play out all the time. One such example is the concept of “cancer is a gift”. Umm… no. It is not, not NOT!

Sense my passionate opinion there?

And on an interesting side note, the first time I ever had interaction with Lori online was when she commented on that particular gift post. Even back then, she was a whole lot more open-minded about this particular cancer concept than I was or ever will be. I will never be calling cancer a gift. Not gonna happen.

As Lori so eloquently gave an example of in her article, support groups are places where opinions sometimes get snarled up with non-intentional (giving the benefit of a doubt here) judgment. Who hasn’t attended a support group seeking well, support, and instead heard someone offer advice or an opinion that is heavily laden with judgment, unintentional or otherwise?

The purpose of support of any kind is to support, not judge, so why is it often so hard to refrain from the latter?

And I would venture to say a whole lot of judging goes on not only when we choose different treatment paths, but also when we choose different survivorship paths.

The most simplistic illustration of the latter in Breast Cancer-land might be the pink ribbon, or even the color pink itself.

Should one don a pink ribbon or should one shun the dang ribbon altogether? Is it still okay to like pink? (yes!) Sometimes it seems like we must pick a side. Sad really, because it’s never been about pink or pink ribbons.

No matter how strongly we feel about our opinions and beliefs; they are still exactly that, opinions and beliefs.

Opinions are generally fine and mostly welcomed. Judgment, not so much. Judgment tends to shut doors. Judgment tends to stall communication or even halt it altogether.

When others disagree with us on how to “do cancer” or survivorship, it doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. Of course, it doesn’t make them right either. As a blogger, I try to keep this in mind, but I’m sure I’ve failed more than a few times. Though it’s never my intention, I’m sure I’ve sounded judgmental from time to time.

Bloggers are by nature an opinionated lot. I mean why else would most of us be blogging and/or reading/commenting on blogs, right? We are bloggers; we aren’t journalists. We are opinion sharers though most, myself included, do attempt to accurately report the facts that we tuck in with our opinions.

Bloggers and readers of blogs like sharing. A lot. We like the interaction. Heck, we even like the lively debates that sometimes get going.

Passionate opinions light fires, stir things up, start conversations and hopefully help to get things done.

Free speech is a wonderful thing. Shared opinions are wonderful as well.

However, when it comes to cancer treatment and/or survivorship paths, perhaps we could all be a little less judgmental.

Have you ever felt others were judging your cancer treatment decisions?

Have you ever felt as if your survivorship path was being judged? 


image via mcleodandmore.com



20 thoughts to “When Opinions & Judgments Get Tangled Up”

  1. I went over and read Lori’s article. Very well done. I have to say, I think people are very judgmental no matter what the subject is. Cancer is obviously a sensitive subject, so I think that makes people even more likely to be judgmental about any decisions around it.

    We all place judgement on others, but this is a good reminder to try very hard not to do so.

    1. Lindsay, You’re right; we are pretty judgmental about a lot of things aren’t we? Thanks for reading and commenting and for reading Lori’s post too.

  2. Hi there. I’m very new to the world of breast cancer – I’ve only been in it about 6 weeks actually, so it’s still very raw (literally!). When I was trying to decide whether to have immediate breast reconstruction after my mastectomy or not. I found it very difficult to filter out what I thought other people thought I should do, and what I really wanted for myself. It felt very complex and overwhelming, but I got there in the end.

    1. Rethink Street, I’m sorry you have to join this world of breast cancer in such an up close and personal manner, but since you did, I’m glad you’re here. Sometimes it is hard to filter out the ‘noise’ of all the opinions of others. Ultimately, this is your life and the decisions are yours to make. I’m glad you ‘got’ there. But rest assured, the ‘noise’ is only just beginning. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment. I’ll be checking out your blog!

  3. My feeling is that we have to respect others decisions even if they would not feel right for ourselves but sometimes this is so hard to do in respect of no treatment…. Somehow we need to support this person as their choice did not come easy and is made for their own reasons.. Everyone is different, our lives and situations are different and this colours our choices.. I should also add that like you believe I to say .. Cancer is no gift!!!

    1. Helen, You are so right. You are one of the least judgmental people that I’ve met online. Your compassion and acceptance of others and their decisions always shines through, even in this comment. But I am sort of glad you agree with me on that gift thing! Thanks for reading and sharing.

  4. Yes I have. There is a very odd “cancer competition” out there that I just don’t get. The path I choose is mine and no one should judge it, as your cancer is yours and I would never judge it. It still boggles my mind.

    1. Ann Marie, Your path is yours indeed, as is everyone’s. We all get rather passionate about our opinions, but still we need to respect the opinions others have and the choices others make. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  5. As much as I dislike the idea cancer taught me the much talked about “lessons”, I admit that right in the midst of treatment I began to understand and learn how judgmental I was on a number of fronts. The biggest one I learned was to stop blaming smokers for lung cancer. No one deserves cancer period.
    But I know I still struggle with this, and I see it happen quite often too, and remind myself to stop and think every and any time I see an opinion/action in Cancerland with which I do not agree. What often seems to be lost is that those doing the judging-myself included–never have all of the facts. I find this a touchy subject and was greatly offended once at another blogger’s comments about how she felt anyone who had less than the full treatment (surgery/chemo/radiation) just did not have it as bad as she. I’ve often thought about writing a post about it, but am not sure I’ll ever have the right words to tackle this issue. It is certainly one of the most troubling aspects I’ve encountered here in Cancerland.

    1. CC, In a sense, being ‘judgmental’ is sort of part of the blogging package. It comes with the territory. I mean we blog because we have opinions, thoughts, ideas, etc to share. And sometimes we do go a bit over-board. Ultimately, we all judge others all the time, but it boils down to how it’s done. How you voice your opinion matters almost as much as your opinion itself. You can’t come across as my way is the only way, or no one will every listen, even if you’re right. And as for that comment, I can understand why you were offended. I hope you do get around to tackling that post some day. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. People are people, even if they have cancer. Opinions reign and we become isolated from each other. It’s really a shame because I know of several people who’ve sought support in a group only to feel judged and more alone than when they started. This was a thought-provoking post. Acceptance of others’ differences is definitely something to aspire toward. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

    1. Eileen, Acceptance of others’ differences is definitely something to aspire toward, cancer or no cancer. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  7. Hi Nancy,

    I thought Lori’s post was excellent, and it really got me thinking. After all, there is a fine line between opinion and judgement. I essentially “fired” a support group because they were more interested in telling me that my treatment protocol and doctors were all wrong. Really unsettled me. I wrote a post on that awhile back.

    Disagreements are bound to occur, but if a member of a support group feels ostracized as I did, then it’s time to let the group go.

    Excellent post.

    1. Beth, I thought Lori’s post was excellent, too, and yours was as well. I realize we all judge every single day in one way or another, but it’s kind of about how a person goes about doing it too. Anyway, Lori’s post really made me think about this topic again. Thanks for adding your thoughts, Beth.

  8. I agree that support means accepting others decisions even when they disagree with your own. One to one with a friend, what I do is listen as the person voices thoughts usually left silent. It helps.

    I must add though that you don’t go to an NRA group to discuss why you threw out your guns and a post treatment cancer group to discuss why you won’t get treatment. When looking for support, it’s important to research the group you are joining.

    1. Mae, You make a good point about researching your support group as some are obviously just better fits than others, or not ‘fits’ at all. On the other hand, I think breast cancer support groups should always embrace anyone who walks through the door, no matter what treatment path is chosen. Compassion can mean everything. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  9. Nancy,

    I am responding belatedly due to a whirlwind trip across the east coast for, among other things, METAvivor. Thank you for referencing my article and this very thought-provoking post.

    I agree that this is a complicated issue, in part because our passions run so deep. I know that the women in that support group I led only wanted the best for Betty – they just couldn’t hear that Betty knew best what was right for her. You touch on what I think is the heart of the matter – the good ole “do into others” rule. If you wouldn’t want the person you’re speaking with to tell you the opposite what you’re about to say, it’s best left unsaid. It’s true when it comes to treatment decisions, wearing pink, supporting breast cancer organizations – and everything else in life!

    I am lucky to be a part of a small-ish, closed online group. One of the things that we sometimes stop to marvel at is the degree to which we manage to share information without ever telling someone else what to do, and it reinforces that line for me wherever I look. Yes, we bloggers are certainly an opinionated bunch! But to ever think we know best is to compromise the pulpit our readers have gifted us. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Lori, First of all, congrats to you on your new position at METAvivor! I am so proud of you and know you’ll do a great job. Your comment once again illustrates your compassion and the kind heart that you have. I’m glad you have that online group where you all feel comfortable to share without ever feeling judged. That’s what support should be like. Thank you for reading and commenting too. Your post really made me think about this topic, so thank YOU!

  10. glad i found your blog. I just finished my chemo treatments– one shy of the original recommended number due to an acute allergic reaction. Wow,have i gotten A LOT of opinions about what’s best there…But more than that i find the way i’m judged at 1st glance because of the bald head, droopy eyes and swollen face startling and in stark contrast to the way i was treated before. it hurts.

    1. Melinda, I’m glad you found my blog too. Welcome! I’m sorry you had that bad allergic reaction and I imagine your decision to stop shy of one treatment did raise an eye brow or two. You know what’s right for you. It’s too bad there’s so much judging that goes on based on our physical appearance too. I hear you loud and clear there. It does hurt, but you can’t let it get to you too much. Find places and people where and with whom you can be real. Those are the best places to be and the best people to surround ourselves with anyway. Again, welcome and thanks for sharing.

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