― Mother Teresa
There’s a woman in my life that I didn’t care too much for. From day one, she rubbed me the wrong way and I kept a cold distance from her. She acted as if she was above the law, talked meanly about other people, name-dropped (one of my big pet peeves), and dressed in really skimpy clothes…which doesn’t really bug me but I’m trying to think of things to add to her bad list. She seemed to lack all of the qualities I admire most in people – warmth, compassion, friendliness, acceptance and being down to earth. I wasn’t mean to her, but I certainly wasn’t any of those qualities I just listed to her either.
Then I something happened that changed my mind. I overheard her talking about herself and her life. She’d been through multiple divorces, and was now trying her best to put herself through school so she could stand on her own and make a new life for herself. With that insight, I saw her as a human being doing her best, and the rest didn’t really matter anymore. Maybe it’s a cover – maybe she puts on a tough bitchy face to make herself seem less vulnerable. Maybe she’s still in a lot of inner pain and drowns it out by cutting off emotion to other people. Whatever it is, all of her caddy stuff suddenly looked like surface, exterior fluff. Those annoying things weren’t her. Once I saw a glimpse of her humanity – the person behind the symptoms – I saw her through different eyes – with compassion.
The whole thing made me think about how quick we are to judge other people strictly based on the outer fluff stuff. Maybe not everyone judges, but it is certainly a vice of mine. I’m an analyst, I’m paid to make assessments and judgments, and I let it spill over way too disproportionately into the real world. But quick judgments are the reason reality shows thrive – because the people seem so ridiculously stereotypical that we can’t believe they’re real, but can’t look away either. The bitchy housewife, the machismo guido, the trashy hoarder (no pun intented), the street thug…we actually enjoy making snap judgements on them. But I digress because those are just masks.
It’s finding the humanity in other people – all people – that’s the challenge. If I stop and catch myself before I put a relative stranger into a superficial category in my mind, and see them for a human being with challenges and bucket lists and heartbreak and victories, then their depth reveals itself and compassion comes easily. Now it’s time to put theory to practice!