A couple were riding in their car recently when they approached an intersection and pulled into the right lane in order to make a turn. Immediately in front of them was a car with the left blinker engaged. The husband made the comment – with irritation in his voice – “Why does this guy think he can turn left from the right hand lane?” A few seconds later he looked up, realized that the four-lane street dead-ended into another four-lane road, and that the overhead signage indicated that the right lane could indeed be used for either left or right turns.
Turning to his wife, he pointed to the sign and said, “Never mind.”
His wife, speaking with a tone of voice that reflected more than three decades of patiently waiting for him to observe the obvious, replied, “Several years ago I came to a realization that changed my life. When I faced a situation where I thought someone was in the wrong,” she said, “I stopped myself from judging them and asked instead ‘What is here that I do not understand?’” She continued, “That simple change helped me hold back from being too judgmental and sent me down a path of empathy and understanding.”
“Oh,” said the husband, clearly realizing that he needed to think more deeply about his wife’s point of view.
This story came to mind as I was reading about a call for the practice of hesitating. The author said, “By hesitating, I am not talking about being demure nor about being spineless. I’m speaking here of reverencing those whom you find alien.” Every day in both work and our private lives we are called upon to make judgments, including some snap judgments, about people and situations. Some of that is pragmatic, while some of it occurs on a deeper level. “We have to make judgment calls about confrontations and interventions. We must judge when someone has done too much or gone too far…”
By hesitating, by asking ourselves “What is here that I do not understand about this person or this situation?” we encourage ourselves to take a wider, more generous view. And I think that’s a good thing, for there’s almost always more going on than meets the eye…. if we take the time to understand.
Have a good week.
More to come…