“Even when walking in the company of two other men, I am bound to be able to learn from them. The good points of the one I copy; the bad points of the other I correct in myself.”
Based on this quote by Confucius, I decided that when I observed what appeared to be a weakness in others I would look to find it in myself. Once I started this practice, it never seemed to take long before I found it. For example, one night I felt uncomfortable around my former girlfriend’s family because of fear of being judged.
Later, upon reflecting on the evening, I could see that in no way did they act judgmentally toward my daughter or me. Indeed, it was clear to me that I was the one doing the judging, if in no other way than judging them as those who would judge.
Judgement in action
Once, as I was biking home from campus, I heard a car alarm going off. Normally I become a little annoyed at such a disturbance, but this time I simply observed it. As I approached the car I noticed three men, who appeared to be in their twenty’s, and were obviously quite annoyed by this particular event.
I heard one of them say, in a rather agitated voice, “All you have to do is put the key in the ignition and turn!”
I glanced in the direction of where the men were looking and I noticed a little old lady sitting in the driver’s seat of the car with the alarm blaring, looking rather distressed at the whole ordeal. I rode to the end of the block before deciding to ride back and see if I might be of assistance, in spite of my mind telling me that it was none of my business, that I might scare the poor woman, and a myriad of other excuses to not go back to help.
As I moved toward the vehicle I was leery of how to approach: I did not want to add fear to the already distressed woman. It was difficult to see her through the tinted window, but she was gesturing to me that she didn’t know what to do and couldn’t open the door as the car had power locks and she didn’t know how to open them.
I began to talk to her though the window and attempted to coach her through this ordeal. I directed her to put the key in the ignition and start the car. She followed the instructions I provided and the alarm went off. I then guided her to the remote control on the key chain to unlock the door, which she did. It was only then that she was able to tell me that the car was a rental and she was having trouble figuring out how to operate it.
Carl Jung once said
“All gaps in our actual knowledge are still filled out with projections. We are still so sure we know what other people think or what their true character is.”
This seems to sum up what I and the other men were doing. The men walking on the opposite sidewalk appeared to be judging her as a stupid old woman. I judged her as a confused old woman, who perhaps shouldn’t even be driving. However, I felt compelled to help. It turns out that what happened to her could have happened to anyone.
Not only was this an unfamiliar vehicle, but also she was attempting to park in the heart of a busy city, which is not an easy task for anyone. It stands to reason that this would be a highly stressful event and in her emotionally agitated state, her ability to think clearly was severely hampered.
Judgement distances us from the truth
I learned a few valuable lessons from this experience. First of all, I noticed how quick to judge we could be, even when the target of our judgment is an elderly woman. Secondly, I began to think about the kind of experience I want to have in this life. I realized that I must live the experience I want to have.
I could have judged the woman as incompetent, wished that we didn’t have to come across people like that, and continued on. However, that is not the kind of society I want to live in.
I want to live in a society in which we give each other the benefit of the doubt and attempt to provide a helping hand whenever possible.
The only way to find ourselves living in this type of society is to be that type of individual. We must simply be the type of person who we want to interact with.
This goes in line with Gandhi’s famous quote:
“Be the change you want to experience in the world.”
This also points to the power each of us has to create our own experience. We do not create the events, but we do create our experience of events in our lives.
It is helpful to adopt the perspective that everyone is doing the best they can given their previous experience and their current level of consciousness. In turn, we can be more accepting of others.