The other day, I was sitting across the table from my good friend Kate.
She’s the type of friend that if you call her or text her, 9 times out of 10 she picks up or texts back immediately. I can always count on Kate.
Even her “Hi, how are you?” instantly makes you feel special and truly loved.
Kate and I have known each other for 5 years, and although that may not seem long, our connection is deep and older than this lifetime.
In the first couple of years of our friendship, I noticed something interesting about Kate.
She had this cute little dog, named Lionel (he is no longer with us now).
It became clear to me early on that Lionel was the focus of her life. She wouldn’t take trips, even though she knew she could leave him with her parents. She couldn’t stay out late because she had to feed Lionel or she didn’t want him to be alone for too long.
I get that this sounds pretty normal for most pet owners, but hear me out. I could understand why she needed to get home early to feed him and such, but what I couldn’t understand was why she would rarely travel because of Lionel.
This just seemed a little extreme, and I totally judged her for it.
Internally I thought “Oh, she’s just being type A and controlling. She probably doesn’t trust anyone to take care of him the way she does”.
I could see it was squashing her freedom and I couldn’t understand why she would want to be stuck at home taking care of a dog, when she could leave him with someone else, and travel and enjoy herself.
Then the other day at dinner we were talking about when’s the last time she had been to Europe, and she said it was 10 years ago. My jaw dropped, and I said “what! Why that long?”. She’s from France and visited often when she was little.
Kate said, with a bit of a shaky voice, “the last time I went, I left Lionel for 10 days and when I came back I found out that he was being abused by the professional I had left him with.”
In that moment, I was struck.
I said “is that why you often didn’t want to travel and leave Lionel?”.
She said, “yes I can’t even talk about it to this day. I still feel horrible about leaving him.”
I hit a level of deep compassion for Kate. I totally understood why she was choosing to stay home over traveling. She didn’t want what happened to Lionel to EVER happen again.
Then I felt bad. I realized for several years now I’d assumed that it was because she was just being controlling, and I would make fun of her for that, in a sisterly joking way.
But here’s why I am writing you about this today….
We are all doing this same thing ALL the time.
I know this example may seem small, but that’s the point.
The moral of the story is that within relationships we are constantly judging and assuming all kinds of things. Even sometimes subconsciously.
And these assumptions, even in the smallest way, taint the connections that you have with other human beings. Even ones you love dearly.
As people, we all have tendencies that are similar. Often we think we know why someone is acting or saying something in a particular way, and because of this, we judge them for it because we’re making false assumptions.
How many times in a day do you think you say something like, “my boss sucks he is such a jerk”, or “that colleague is just out for himself”, or “she thinks she’s better than everyone else”.
How much do you ACTUALLY know about that person?
Have you taken the time to understand the inner workings of what makes your boss your boss? Do you know how he was raised? If he felt loved and accepted by his mom and dad? If he was bullied as a child? If he had traumatic experiences in his life?
I’m not saying all of this to make you feel bad. That would defeat the purpose. I’m writing about this today because we all need more AWARENESS.
We are all SO MUCH more alike than we are different, and when we say things that label another human being a certain way, we have just created separation.
So, what do we do instead of judging someone?
1) We tap into compassion and create empathy. We remind ourselves that although the experiences, cultures and backgrounds are unique, the underlying feelings that each of us feel are not. What you are seeing today is a culmination of a whole bunch of feelings that lie underneath from our past.
2) We stay curious and ask lots and lots of questions, even if it feels slightly intrusive. Trust me, that person would rather you be intrusive then have you leave them thinking something that’s not true.
And the most important of all…
3) We ACCEPT ourselves for everything we are. The good, the bad and the ugly, because when we accept those qualities within ourselves we can then transform and love others regardless of what we are seeing on the outside. Kate was my mirror to see and accept those ways inside me that are controlling and type A, and love those parts of me. When we are able to accept all of the parts of who we are, then we no longer judge or criticize people for who they are, or for what they’re doing.
Let’s all LEAD WITH LOVE.
I’d love to hear in the comments below if you can relate – have you ever caught yourself assuming something about someone and later realized there was more to the story? Let me know.