As humans, we tend to make snap judgements about other humans; it’s just the way our brains work. Our genetics hark back to times when all you could count on was your wits and timing; i.e., indecision could mean injury or death. This is an instinct we carry to this day.
One day we may be impatiently walking behind an old man, shuffling along a path or corridor and we want to get ahead of him so we are not slowed down. While we are fuming about being late, all we can think about is that if only this old guy would step aside or just move it, we could be on our way.
Here’s the thing: that old man may be a WWII veteran, still suffering with shrapnel in his legs. If we knew this to begin with, we might not be so impatient. Things are not always what they seem.
The woman who nearly ran us off the road might have just gotten a call that her mother had a heart attack and was rushing to the hospital. And so it goes.
Of course, there are many times when people do stupid and disrespectful things because 1) they don’t know any better, 2) they are only concerned with themselves and their own needs, 3) something life-changing has happened to them and they are still processing it, or 4) they are just plain careless.
One of my resolutions this year is to try and remember that often things are seldom what they seem. Even if someone is treating me badly, I am trying to think first: what might be going on with them? If I can’t come up with anything, I resolve to do my best to let it go and not let resentment or anger take root in my heart. A tall order. But it’s not doing me any good to get riled up over something I can’t help. Hashing real or imagined wrongs are cancerous–you don’t want to let them fester and grow out of control.
Instead, I’m going to take a leaf from Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, from the song between Buttercup and the Captain, called “Things Are Seldom What They Seem.” The first verse follows:
“Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream;
Highlows pass as patent leathers;
Jackdaws strut in peacock’s feathers.”
So they do.”