“Don’t judge a book by its cover”

Sometimes there is something in those old-fashioned sayings our mums taught us…

One night this week as I was getting on the métro a man pushed past a couple of ladies who were waiting in front of me to ensure he was the first on the train. The ladies tut-tutted, as I would have done in their place, and exchanged eye-rolls. I myself, although not expressing it on the exterior, formed an internal representation of this man as being very rude. I judged him.

Once on the train the man seated himself and, when he realised someone wanted to sit next time him, folded the seat down and kindly invited the lady to sit. It was at this point I realised that, although physically indeterminable, this man was, in fact, mentally challenged.

With this new information, my perspective completely changed. I recognized that the mere act of catching the métro was possibly a big deal for this man, that he didn’t necessarily have additional mental capacity to be thinking of others. All his focus needed to be simply on getting himself on the train before the doors closed.

We are always using our internal beliefs and values about the things that are important to us to filter the limitless information we are confronted with evey day. We never have ALL the information in any situation. We don’t know anything about a stranger’s experience in life, except the brief snapshot we are presented with as our paths cross. And therefore, we don’t really have any right to judge.

I do it. You do it. We all do it. It’s human. But this experience served as a timely reminder that sometimes my judgement just isn’t required or appropriate. Everyone around me is behaving as best they can with the tools they have. And most of the time that’s pretty much all should I need to know.

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