Oct 4, 2010

To Understand Confusion

I wrote this paper for my English class this year. It's the 2nd one that was due. I was going to have someone read it, but he got busy and couldn't get back to me in time. Instead, I asked Sara to read it and she liked it a lot. I was just curious what everyone else thought of it :) The prompt was to describe a concept that you've learned recently. I actually took "recently" to mean within the past 6 or 7 years, but whatever! It's a good concept! Haha. Enjoy!


Have you ever noticed how awful everyone is? I mean, think about it. They’re all dumb in everything they do. They try to sing along to songs they don’t know, which is just annoying. They’re all hopelessly slow when they drive, consistently making everyone who happens to be stuck behind them late. They’re inconsiderate and selfish, not taking two seconds to hold a door open and instead letting it slam in people’s faces. And worst of all, they think they’re perfect and they make snap judgments about others without even knowing them. Everyone is just a horrible person, to put it simply. There are a few exceptions: my family, my friends and me. We might do dumb or rude things sometimes, but at least we notice and then try to correct it in the future, unlike the rest of the earth’s people. For them, hope is lost.

I was at my peak of hatred for people in general when I took a leadership training course, and the instructor was a curious case. He was not rude or judgmental like the rest of the world. His name was Josh and he was young, maybe 26 or 27. He had light brown hair, and he was not particularly skinny, but he was understanding and kind. Without ever having met me before, he knew that I had been through experiences in my life that shaped me and made me who I am. He knew that my actions didn’t always necessarily reflect my personality, and that sometimes I offended others, but I never meant to.

That was the key: he understood and wasn't judgmental. He knew all 30 or so of us were good people, and that we didn't go through life trying to offend others. It piqued my curiosity and I just wanted to know how he could understand all of us without having met any of us before. So he explained.

It was only a few years earlier. Josh was in New York. He was on the subway one particular, but ordinary, day. The subway wasn't overly crowded, but there were a decent amount of people there, all silent, as usual. Many were staring off into space, like Josh was, just using the time to catch up with their thoughts. A few people read newspapers or finished their novels. It was quiet with proper subway etiquette being displayed by everyone, until they reached one specific stop.

A man-- let's call him Frank-- got on the subway with his three young children. Frank took a seat just two away from Josh. Then he leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes. Meanwhile, his children ran wild. They raced screaming up and down the isles. They climbed the handrails and empty seats like a jungle gym. They displayed absolutely no respect to the rest of the people. The monsters ran around disturbing the passengers. Everybody was ripped and dragged from their quiet solitude, forced to be present in a subway cart that seemed like Hell. The tranquility that had previously existed in this cart vanished. Instead, wild animals replaced it. And their dad just laid there! He dared to get onto a busy subway with such demons, and he lacked the decency to try to keep them in line for the rest of the passengers.

It was ridiculous. Josh was fed up with it, and he was in a convenient position to let Frank know exactly what he thought. He bitterly looked at Frank, oblivious and self-centered, and almost chewed him out for letting his children terrorize all the innocent victims on the subway. That was when Josh realized it. Frank was completely oblivious to everything. He didn't even realize that his kids were running around, let alone that they were angering the other people. Something seemed amiss. Josh took a deep breath and instead of yelling at Frank, he simpling and calmly said, "Sir, excuse me, but do you need help with your children?"

The man looked around, almost woken from a trance, and saw his children going postal and the contempt of all the others on the subway. He just sighed and replied, "Oh I'm really sorry. We're just heading home from the hospital. My wife just died, and I guess I'm having a hard time dealing with it."

Everyone's faces instantly melted with compassion for this poor man who they had misjudged. He was not a bad father or a bad human being, he was just in pain. They all had read him wrong. They didn't know what his situation was, and they judged him anyway. It hit Josh like a brick wall. You can't look at someone else and tell what's going on in their life, thus invalidating any judgment you might make about that person.

For some reason, the story hit home to me. I do dumb things all the time, and I constantly worry that other people are judging me for doing them. I once stopped at a green light. I was lost in an unfamiliar part of the state, and there was snow on the ground. As I came up to the light, I couldn't see where the line was to stop, so I sat there worrying about where I should stop and if I would be too far into the intersection. I was so preoccupied with focusing on where I should be stopped, that I didn't even realize that the light wasn't red. The lane next to me was open, thankfully, so when someone stopped behind me, they couldn't have been too mad, or else they would've gone around.

Now, were the situation reversed, I would have been pissed off at whoever was stopped at the green light. I'd yell at them, from the privacy of my own car, to stop being such an idiot and to get going. I wouldn't even consider that they were lost or confused about where the line was. I wouldn't think that maybe they weren't from that part of Denver. I would just be angry. That's probably why I'm so afraid someone else is angrily judging me when I do something stupid: because I would if I were them. After Josh told his story, it made it easier to realize that people are often very hard to read, and I often don't see the whole picture. I don't have the right to judge someone else since I don't know their story, and I will probably be wrong if I try to guess.

So now, when I come upon someone who seems to be a few fries short of a Happy Meal, all I really need to do is remember that I don't know them. Whatever they're doing on the surface doesn't even begin to show the complexity of their motivation for their actions. By incorporating this into my life, I find that I don't feel so judged when I do dumb things. I notice the people that aren't judging me more, and I feel more comfortable with myself.

That, in and of itself, is its own reward. However, it doesn't end there. My happier disposition will put others in a better mood, and their better mood will have a positive effect on the people they know. It creates a giant positive cycle, so that one person can affect everyone else. Knowing that you can have such a profound effect on all the people you know and come in contact with, would you make the effort to try to understand that others are just lost and confused, leading them to do something "stupid," or would you dare to judge them from just one glimpse?

4 comments:

Susie said...

Wow...

Jason said...

Not bad.

TheWizard said...

I feel like doing something stupid.

Samara said...

In case we were all curious, I got an A on this :)