When I was young, my dad would get very angry at other drivers. He was constantly in a rush, so anything which hindered him from getting to his destination was a minor catastrophe – and it was always the other driver’s fault. After watching this, I began to realize that the other cars were just behaving like normal drivers, and couldn’t have accounted for my dad, the unusually speedy driver.
I think thats what influenced me to trust that other people made sense – and that if someone does something that doesn’t agree with what I know or would want, its because their history is causing them to do so. I think individuals are very explainable – our own stories make sense when heard in full. So when someone wears clothes I think look ridiculous, I can draw the conclusion that its their background causing them to wear those clothes. You might say “Shouldn’t they know those clothes make people think X, Y, and Z?” Perhaps they do know that, or perhaps they don’t understand that clothes give people impressions, or perhaps they can’t afford something else, or perhaps a million other things… The end result doesn’t change the fact that they are wearing those clothes, and they’re probably doing the best they can.
Trusting that people are doing the best they can is another interesting idea. People who are labeled as lazy are often doubted to be doing “the best they can.” However, when you look at what causes laziness, its not so clear if its truly their fault. Fat people are often thought of as lazy. If they’re fat, its typically because they have poor nutrition. Do we expect someone with poor nutrition to be anything other than lazy? So then, why don’t they improve their nutrition – surely they know poor nutrition is bad? Maybe they use eating as a coping mechanism for something else going wrong in their life, maybe they don’t have enough time or money to eat better, or maybe they are really unaware of the differences being healthy could have for them (probably because they don’t have any role models to see what it would be like). This is part of why I like Waypoint because it makes it clear how to improve yourself, and what the benefits will be.
I sometimes wonder how blame, or condescension, or judgement works at all. Unless the rules are made explicitly clear to people, and people feel they have security to express when they are compelled to break the rules – so long as people are willing to change their ways, then I don’t see why long term evaluations of a person should be formed. To be clear, I think some rules are explicitly understood: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t physically harm others are all rules everyone should be held accountable for if they break. However, rules like what you should wear, how you should speak, what your interests are, and what you believe in should all be breakable without judgement. (However, repeatedly performing suboptimal activities after having been properly informed of their negative consequences is something that may permit judgement. It certainly requires individuals to be capable of fully expressing themselves in both directions.)
The reason I’ve been thinking of this is because its easy to get caught up in being critical. Sometimes its funny, sometimes its self-affirming, sometimes its just lashing out…but it always comes from a place of being unable to understand someone else’s situation. So then, to me, its a challenge to never be critical – because the better alternative is to know the other side, and then to inform. The Moody Blues have a great set of lyrics on this topic:
And he thought of those he angered,
For he was not a violent man,
And he thought of those he hurt
For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened
For he was not a evil man,
And he understood.
He understood himself.
He saw that when he was of anger
Or knew hurt
Or felt fear,
It was because he was not understanding.
And he learned, compassion.
And with his eye of compassion
He saw his enemies
Like unto himself,
And he learned love.
Then, he was answered.