It's a post about the adage of not criticizing somebody until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
Perhaps it's age, or perhaps it's being more aware of people around me that are finding themselves in situations that they once criticized others for being in. In any case, I seem to have encountered several recent instances of people having eye-opening experiences that have helped them to see people in a different light and to help me see people differently, as well.
I saw this picture posted on Facebook recently:
I think there are some good rules here--numbers 2 and 4 really jump out for me.
2) What others think of you is none of your business.
I don't buy into that completely, but I do understand that I don't need to be obsessed by what others think of me. Often, their thoughts are more about how I fit into their experiences than about what I might actually be experiencing. Number 4 turns it around and reminds me that I may not have the information to make an accurate judgment of somebody else.
4) Don't compare your life to others, and don't judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
I hear a lot about people that are receiving some kind of social assistance--welfare, unemployment, disability payments, WIC--you get the idea. Often times, such recipients are looked down upon or thought to be too lazy to take care of themselves. Many times they appear to be able bodied persons and so we think that maybe they just don't want to work or are too lazy to find a job.
I do not doubt that there are wide abuses in programs that are designed to help people that are in need. But it is also true that there are real needs. There really are people that are terribly under-employed or are working without much needed health benefits. There really are people that have lost their jobs (through no fault of their own) and find themselves desperately needing help to feed their families. There really are people that appear to be perfectly healthy but are suffering from chronic pain or are unable to concentrate or use extremities because of an injury or illness.
And there really is such a negative stigma attached to getting help that the people in need are often humiliated and made to feel like second class citizens when they apply for the assistance.
If a person that we know to be on welfare or disability has a nice phone, expensive camera, nice clothes, nice car, whatever; it's not okay for us to make negative assumptions about their character. They could be gifts. They could be possessions from before a life changing event. They could be from a settlement that came from an injuring party. The thing is--we don't know.
In churches, we might look down on somebody that has been divorced. We don't know if it was an abusive relationship. We don't know if a spouse was unfaithful. We don't know if every effort was made to save the marriage. We just know that somebody is divorced and that must mean--well, it must mean something! Right?
What about an unmarried single parent? Now that's a situation that we can make a judgment on, right?
No. It's not.
Rather than continuing to go on ranting, let me just say that I think these are some good rules to follow.
Here's a quote I like that is attributed to several different people:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.