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You Never Know What People Are Going Through

May 31st, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 53 secs

People keep secrets.

People keep secrets.

People are complicated, are they not? There are folk around you that you’ve known for years with secrets you’d never dream of.

Yet, so many of us are quick to judge, convict, and punish other people, based on what we see. It’s easy to do too. We can feel entirely justified when we witness activity we deem to be inappropriate, or decide that some folk don’t fit our criteria for being “good enough”.

In a way that’s a shame because I often suspect we don’t get the full image. People’s history plays a big part in what we end up discovering. Yet, I suspect, much of what wasn’t “pretty” gets aired, at least, not in our presence.

So, you never know what people are going through. Not really. How many people have battled with abuse, rape, or intimidation, yet bury it so deeply under a confident exterior that you wouldn’t dare question? We don’t know, and perhaps we never will.

Given the mystery, you might be wondering, “If I don’t know, why bother talking about it now?” Well, it’s simple: merely recognizing people have gone (or are still going) through difficulties we don’t know of means we do well to give people leeway.

Judging others is a sport most of us indulge in all too easily. It justifies us – at least we think it does. But giving people space for unknown difficulties changes the game and immediately takes the justification out of condemning.

Admittedly, you could be accused of being too forgiving and too willing to give people freedom when they aren’t managing as well as they “ought” to be. But erring on the side of compassion and granting we don’t know everything about everybody makes sense.

Sometimes, that tacit acceptance from us is all a person needs. At others, knowing you are approachable and will genuinely listen can make a world of difference to a grieving mother, a depressed colleague, or a family member struggling with serious domestic issues.

It’s a judgment call isn’t it? You have to decide at the time whether people need understanding or a tight rein. Which isn’t easy. But knowing there is always an element of uncertainty in our knowledge of others always deserves to be factored in. Just as you would be grateful if others made allowances for you and your concerns.

If we carry the notion that what we see in other people isn’t quite the entire story, we not only have the potential to be more compassionate. We also show some genuine wisdom in the way we understand others, and also, ourselves.

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