Today I heard a story about a woman who went through an experience that taught her a great life lesson about perspective. I will try and relay the story the best I can remember it (since I wasn’t taking notes when I heard it).
This woman was driving to the grocery store in her car which didn’t have air conditioning and she had her child with her in the car seat. It was hot and the baby was extremely fussy and the woman just wanted to park and get into the store. When she drove through the parking lot the only spot open to park was barely a spot someone could fit into because the person parked next to the spot had parked so poorly. The woman was frustrated and angry at this person who parked so horribly. She vented to herself about how ridiculous this other person was and how much she disliked them for parking so poorly and being so clearly rude and inconsiderate of everyone else needing to park. In fact she was so upset with whoever parked that car that she even considered leaving a nasty note for them on their window telling them exactly what she thought of their parking job, but she decided against it. She did her best to squeeze her car into the open space and she hurried into the store with her child. Even as she shopped she carried the feelings of anger and frustration toward this horrible parker with her. Finally after completing her shopping she exited the store and began walking toward her car she saw that the parked car that had caused her so much angst was no longer there and an open space stood in its stead. As she looked toward her car, now parked alone, she realized that her own car appeared to have been parked by someone who was totally inconsiderate and a terrible parker…then as she got closer she saw that a note sat on her windshield left by another driver letting her know just how angry they were with her for her having parked so horribly (in much less kind words than that).
What a great lesson this woman learned. Anyone who came in that parking lot after she had parked would have thought she was the person that was rude and didn’t care about others, because that was the appearance of things had someone not known the entire story. But at the same time, when this woman herself entered the parking lot she thought that very same thing about the car she saw parked all crazy and she immediately judged the person driving that car as harshly as someone was now judging her. When in reality that car that blocked her may have been facing the very same struggle she was to get parked.
I love that story because that happens more times every day then any of us care to admit. We all do it. We see a situation and immediately rush to judgment or make assumptions. We place blame or get angry or upset before we ever have the entire story or all of the facts. And then we often express our feelings of anger toward another person without even considering that they might have another side to the story that we just didn’t know. But the reality is that many times we don’t have the luxury of time to gather every fact necessary in a situation – or in the example from above the woman pulling into the parking lot may not have been able to track down who the other car belonged to in order to ask them – and I would say that 9 times out of 10 that is the reality of many situations – you may never be able to get all the facts or talk to everyone involved – so then what?!? How do you judge fairly? I love what the woman in the example went on to share – she said that the real lesson she learned that day was to give everyone the benefit of the doubt from the get go – don’t assume the worst about people – assume the best first.
My son and I talked about it this afternoon and he said that he plays a fun game with it to help him give strangers the benefit of the doubt – he said that he tries to make up the most extreme positive about the stranger help himself keep good thoughts about them – for example, if a stranger cuts him off in traffic he might assume they are on their way to propose to the love of their life and were just too excited to notice him, or if money went missing from his wallet he might assume it fell out of his wallet just in time for the stranger who was penniless to see it on the ground and who then could buy food that night for his little kids. He said making up a positive story about what might have caused a stranger to do a negative thing can help keep your perspective towards others positive. I think that is a great game to play and I am going to try and do that myself from now on.
The bottom line is that all of us can benefit from giving each other the benefit of the doubt, assuming the best rather than the worst, and not just toward strangers, but most of all toward the people closest to us.
Have an amazing start to your week!