My natural state is to judge myself on my intentions, even while judging others on their actions.
I doubt I am alone in this struggle. By allowing this thought process to govern us, we abdicate responsibility for our own missteps while blaming others for the slightest error, thinking “I would have done it better.”
A Personal Example
While on the road, I am convinced I’m a great driver surrounded by folks who just don’t get it.
- If I fail to see the person in the lane next to me and try to change lanes, it’s because they are hanging out in my blind spot, not because I didn’t take the time to look thoroughly.
- If I have to pass someone in the fast lane, it’s not because I’m speeding. They clearly don’t know the rules of the road.
- If someone brakes right when the light turns yellow rather than getting through the light, they are obviously incompetent.
- If I see someone blatantly texting while driving down the road, they are irresponsible; however, when I do it, it’s because it is really important!
With forethought, we can change this default condition to a healthier one where we judge ourselves on our actions and others on their intentions.
Using this thought process, we consider decisions more carefully and freely accept responsibility for the consequences. We also seek to understand the actions of others more deeply, knowing that they usually believe they are “in the right” like we do ourselves, even when we are unhappy, offended, or even wounded by them.
We can then seek to build a bridge to them rather than a wall between us. We might even open the opportunity to positively impact their life!
Taking us back to the driving example, what if we simply smile and wave as we get cut off, honked at, or tailgated? If we understand that the person we want to see as rude or inept might be rushing to the hospital, coming home from a funeral, thinking about how they just got chewed out by their boss, or worried about how they are going to pay for their kids’ braces, it becomes easier to take this position. At best, this attitude may bright someone else’s day as we let them in our lane, and at worst, it keeps them from stealing our joy even if they still shoot us an ugly look.
While we’re at it, let’s see our actions through the eyes of others. If you’re the one rushing to the hospital or stressing about braces, check yourself before taking it out on the driver to your left or the cashier working the drive-thru. They have their own issues, and there’s no need to add yourself as that “crazy driver” or “rude customer” to their list of reasons why life is hard.
Give it a shot. Judge yourself on your actions. Try to imagine the best possible intentions of others. You’ve got nothing to lose except gritted teeth and worn-out brakes.
Every Life Has A Story
About the Author – Ryan Bonilla is very active both professionally and personally in the Gwinnett community. He is a Gwinnett Chamber ambassador as well as serving on several committees and boards related to leadership and education. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Sugar Hill, GA.
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