The following is another guest article by the very gifted and wise 16 year old, Joya Gunn. This photo was taken during my travels this past week. Thank you for some profound reading, in my absence Joya!
Pause by Joya Gunn
The other day while I was driving down Albert street, I saw a woman who was clearly either high or extremely intoxicated. My first reaction was a little prejudice and lot of disappointment. I wondered how she could let her life come to this, she just needed to get herself together. After all, haven’t we all gotten ourselves out of rough patches in life?
Later, at home, I found myself looking through some photo albums from when I was younger. I remembered a time when we lived in a run down trailer and used the food bank. I realized that there would have been people who saw my family at that time and thought the same about us. They would have been disgusted with our small trailer and lack of money. It wasn’t because my mother didn’t work hard to give us what we needed, or because she wanted a life without luxury for us. Just as the woman on the street didn’t want her life to be the way it was.
This was really something that struck home to me at the time. I realized that we judge people for living in “less desirable” circumstances, such as poverty or addiction, when we should know that those people never wanted that. Most who are living in circumstances like this, are working to build a better life for them or their family. Those who aren’t trying to escape the life they have, are doing so because they are hurting too much to build themselves back up. They have gone through their own personal hell and they may not have the support, tools for healing, or help they need to make a better life for themselves. We must never underestimate the power of life and what it can do to us, because it doesn’t favour everyone.
The reason why we may not realize that we are judging others on a first glance, is because it’s almost like a survival instinct. We are hardwired to feel threatened by anyone who is different or not “up to our standards”. We go into fight-flight-freeze mode, and are unable to see the myriad of possible reasons for another’s behavior. We get tight and defensive. This is an instinctive first reaction. The key is to pause before we act out of this.
We need to be mindful, although judgment is a natural instinct, try to catch yourself before you speak, or send that nasty text and do any potential harm. You can’t get your words back. Pause. See if you can understand where the person may be coming from. Try to rephrase your critical internal thought into a positive one, or at least a neutral one. After all we never know what a they might going through, and we need to focus on that, rather than how much we disapprove of them.
As well as this, not everyone has the same ideas on how to go about doing things. When someone does something you don’t like, perhaps think of it as they are simply solving a problem in a different way than you would. Or maybe they have a different timetable than you do. This may help you be more open-minded and accepting of their behavior. The Dalai Lama says: “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” This is crucial, so often we judge people because they are not seeking success, when in reality they are. Their idea of success is just not the same as yours.
We also need to look at our own habits, often we subconsciously judge people’s failure because we have also failed in those circumstances. For example, many adults who are particularly critical about how an adolescent is doing in school, are that way because they did not do well in school themselves, or they dropped out and now they regret it. We need to feel good about ourselves, and accept our failures. Once we aren’t so hard on ourselves, it’s easier to not judge others choices. The reason why we’re so hard on one another, because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.
As we are all human, none of us have the right to judge one another. We all make mistakes, we all fail, maybe even more so than we succeed. After all what good does looking down on others do? It just makes us bitter and prideful. None of us have enough authority over others that we can make ourselves believe we are better than “them.” In the end, by doing that, doesn’t it make you the smaller man?
“Counting other people’s sins does not make you a saint.” ~ Hussein Nishah