This afternoon I was sitting watching a TV program and as I watched a few stray tears ran down my cheeks. While it doesn’t matter what the program was or what the specific issue was – what interests me is why I responded as I did. And I think it’s about situations where we as people allow our fears and assumptions to override or outweigh the actual beliefs, characters and motivations of others – and how wrong that seems to me.
I see the masses (whose questions are heralded by the press) wanting answers to their questions when their assumptions are inaccurate and their motivations mistaken.
The story I watched was a fictitious one where a support character, let’s call him Bob, had to defend himself – his motivations, his character, his background and his faith all under scrutiny because of a violent act carried out by someone with a tenuous link to Bob. The link was what the media focused on – understandably – but what the program highlighted to me was the imbalance of media pressure (supported by the majority of people, underlined by their own sense of panic, and the need to bring to justice the perpetrators) when the insubstantial link had no bearing on the act carried out by the offender. And Bob was left having to defend himself to his countrymen and women for an act of kindness he had performed, and its innocuous link to the perpetrator, which then called into question Bob’s character, his motivations, his commitment to his friends, family, to his country and his beliefs.
One could look at the situation and say that the story and it’s violence justified the means (investigation and accusation). While I understand that, my empathetic response was for Bob, the person who had been accused having done nothing wrong other than being true to himself, and his own sense of right and wrong (ie, so nothing wrong at all).
As a New Zealander, these days I shun writing about politics whether international or at home. I would seldom discuss my beliefs in terms of politics, religion or similar with anyone other than close friends. I tend to keep my beliefs regarding those subjects to myself. They are not open for discussion unless I choose otherwise (which I seldom do). My character and attitudes, and my aspirations for my character development are a different matter; to me that’s something which is pretty much (certainly in this forum) ‘free for all’.
I’m interested in why I responded with such a strong reaction to what I knew to be a fictitious TV program. And it’s because my empathy button was pressed. Why was that? Because I allowed myself to slip into the shoes of the character who had been placed in an unfair position (some would say victimised). His unjust treatment was based on what I interpreted as an underlying sense of fear, assumption and the need for blame. I wonder how often we as people do this to others. I wonder how often I’ve done this in the past – and not realised the underlying reason(s) for my responses.
Please understand that my aim here is not to make a statement regarding violence at all; merely to investigate my own response to a fictional situation to which I felt an emotional response.
Note to self: I don’t want to have to justify myself or my beliefs. I also don’t want to judge others, particularly when that judgement is based on my own fears, assumptions or what I think may or may not be someone else’s motivation. (Who am I to judge the motivation of another anyway? Have I seen inside their heart and mind?)
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
I think the following quote is appropriate but my preface would be to alter’mistakes’ ‘perceived mistakes’:
[Quote above courtesy of Linked In Self Motivation Quotes]
I appreciate the uniqueness of seashells. I enjoy their variety: their different colours, shapes, sizes, patterns, diversity. And like us, they each have their own story to tell. And while we could guess at a seashell’s story – they will all be different in small, particular ways that we probably know little about. This is a good reminder – not just that we as people are all different, but that our stories, our histories, our life experiences all differ too – so it’s fair to expect that someone else (who is not me) may see life in an entirely different way to how I do.
I spent a number of months living in Uganda on several occasions. I had expected that the people I interacted with in rural Uganda would be different to me, their experiences and expectations etc, but what I wasn’t prepared for (the first time at least) was that it appeared that their thought processes were also totally different to mine. Looking back I’m not sure why I found this so surprising – but I did. What seemed logical and rational to me was often not to a rural Ugandan.
Similarly when I met my husband, after many years of living alone, I was surprised to find that this man that I shared so much in common with and whom I adored, and who seemed to adore me, had thought processes so foreign to mine in many ways. In hindsight I figure that’s men and women for you – Venus and Mars, from two different worlds and with different perspectives. What surprised me (again) was that I expected our thought processes to be similar when it became apparent that they weren’t. So here we are five years on and we are still learning about each other, still learning what works and doesn’t work for the other – still learning about our similarities and our differences. And that’s ok. I know him better, but I’m still learning. And I still adore him!
The reminder here is that while I expect others to have a different experience, knowledge and perspective from myself – I might also choose to limit my expectations about others – so that I can relax and enjoy their companionship and their diversity, our similarities and our differences, and they can enjoy the freedom to be fully themselves without having to explain, rationalize, or justify their perspective or behaviours.
Do I provide others with an environment where they feel free to totally be their own remarkable, distinct and unique selves?