There was a time when I thought every judgement and every decision I made was right or at least justifiable. It wasn’t until I had gotten it wrong a few times and felt embarrassed a few times that I tried to suspend making judgements until I had as much information as possible before I jumped to any conclusions!
This story was told to me as a representation of a story first told by Steven Covey - the guy who wrote 7 habits of highly successful people amongst other things.
So here is my rendition from memory of the story that made me wait before getting on my high horse about anything!
Picture this, it's rush hour on the train, the train is jam-packed full commuters, almost every seat is taken and some people are standing. Luckily the aisle is still free so not as bad as it might have been. In the aisle are two children, two little boys aged about 4 and 6 the children look a bit grubby and unkempt. They have food dribbled down the front of their clothes and their faces and hands look dirty and sticky. The children seem happy and carefree, they are chasing each other up and down the carriage and of course, bumping the commuters unfortunate enough to be seated in the aisle seats as they run past. Well, you can imagine, the tutting of the commuters, the rolling of the eyes and the frowns as the children play and run around.
The dad of the two children is sitting on the floor at the end of the carriage and he seems oblivious to the bedlam his children are causing. He is staring into space and not bothering at all with the two children running around. Up and down, up and down the children run, laugh and play, all the time shouting and bumping their way along the carriage. The silent condemnation of the passengers in the carriage was palpable! Eventually, one of the other passengers had enough and approached the father to say in a very uptight even angry tone ‘ mate can you sort your kids out, they are running amok and getting on everyone's nerves!’.
The father of the children seemed to take a second to register he was being spoken to at all, but eventually he raised his head and looked the other passenger and said in a quiet sorrow filled voice, ‘I am so sorry, we have been at the hospital all day, their mother has slipped into a coma and I don’t know how to tell them they might not get to see her again.’ As the father of the children’s words registered the passenger who a moment ago thought the Dad to be a deadbeat no-hoper who neglected his children felt a stark reassessment of the judgement made only seconds before! A look of surprise and concern replaced the irritation and anger, a flush of embarrassment rose up the neck, over the face into the scalp. Now in a quiet humble voice, the passenger said ‘ Oh my goodness, I am so sorry, can I do anything to help? Maybe I can keep your boys amused to give you a few moments to yourself.” In a split second, the passenger went from irritation at a bad father and naughty children to someone who felt shame at making a judgement without any real information about the background to what was going on.
This is an extreme story to make the point, however, how often do we judge people based on what we see and then conclude is going on without knowing the truth of the matter.
An old saying is “never judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes”.
If we can stop judging based on the truth as we imagine it and wait and judge on the actual facts of the situation we will be happier and viewed by others as thoughtful decent people.
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