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This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Essential Lessons for Humans

(This is an excerpt from a book I am working on)

I had a friend in school who was close to a girl living in the same lodge as us. They had a strong bond and shared almost everything. One afternoon, I went to my friend’s room to eat, as we usually took turns cooking. As we conversed, I referred to the girl as his sister. He laughed and asked me why I thought so. I told him I didn’t know; it was just what I unconsciously thought after observing their relationship for a short while. He then revealed to me that everyone else assumed they were sleeping together, but they were actually related. Most people, by default, tend to assume the worst about others. This judgment may stem from their shortcomings or low expectations of others. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why some people default to negative conclusions.

We believe we have all the evidence necessary to draw a conclusion when we judge people or situations. We stop seeking new information, and that’s where the problem lies. Not only do we cease seeking information, but once we draw a conclusion about someone, it becomes tied to our ego, making it difficult to let go even when presented with new information.

Conclusions are final, leaving no room for flexibility or improvement. However, there’s a better way to judge. You can judge in a way that remains open and ongoing without assuming that the information you currently possess is sufficient. You can acknowledge that a particular action someone performs is terrible, and that’s okay. But assuming the person is irredeemably bad based on that action is problematic. You can never fully understand their thought process or all the factors that have shaped their life.

I watched a video a while ago about a young man who displayed erratic behaviour, causing harm to others without cause and expressing thoughts of self-harm. Everyone had already written him off as a troublemaker, even his family. However, a doctor with extensive experience in brain research asked to meet the boy. After an MRI scan, the doctor discovered a large tumour pressing against the boy’s left temporal lobe, explaining his violent outbursts.

The boy recovered after surgery, and all his anger and violence vanished. I may not have recounted the story accurately as I couldn’t locate the video again, but that’s the gist of it. Similar situations exist where we believe people are a certain way because they choose to be, yet we are mistaken. Other factors may limit their freedom, such as threats or desperation, or they may require medical attention. Alternatively, we may still lack vital information about the circumstances that led them to where they are now. As I mentioned before, people are not solely a product of their choices; circumstances beyond their control also shape them. So, as you pass judgment, remember to maintain an open mind and apply a little compassion.

Imagine a child who grew up with a violent, angry parent, witnessing regular physical abuse. They would likely perceive violence as a viable means of resolving conflicts. While they are ultimately responsible for their actions as adults, it’s essential to consider the disadvantages they faced at a young age and the absence of positive male role models. This understanding should lead us to show a little mercy. Perhaps what they need more than punishment is rehabilitation, considering the corruption their minds endured during their formative years.

Of course, this doesn’t apply when you are in potential physical danger. In such situations, it is acceptable to be cautious and distance yourself from individuals who appear violent. However, in other cases, regardless of how certain you feel about having figured someone out or understanding their motives behind actions you disapprove of, remember that you don’t know the complete story. You may never know the whole story, so take a more measured approach in drawing conclusions about people.

A helpful exercise would be to identify mitigating factors contributing to a person’s behavior. Consider what you know about them and their past, and think of factors that could lead you to approach them with some level of mercy in your pursuit of justice. This practice can help you become more understanding and empathetic while being cautious not to fall victim to manipulation. It is vital to maintain a balanced perspective, ensuring that our thoughts do not become too skewed in one direction, which could leave us vulnerable to unnecessary harm that could have been avoided.

Series NavigationMisconceptions: Politics a Dirty Game, Good People Shouldn’t Play >>
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Kenneth C. Alimba

Kenneth C. Alimba is a Catholic who believes that the only RIGHT way to view the world is through the eyes of God - so he spends his life teaching people how to attempt to make this a habit as he tries to do the same.

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