More Than Meets The Eye: Why We Shouldn't Judge Based On The Outside

by Derek Neumeier

One of the hardest things a person can do is truly forgive someone who has wronged him or her. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Everyone makes mistakes, including the people in our lives we love the most. When they make mistakes, we're usually inclined to forgive them, even if they really screwed up and it takes some time to come to terms with what happened.

Why do we do this? We know no one is perfect. We know the person in question is thoughtful, caring and possesses some other attributes that make us care for him or her.

We know this because we know this person. Whatever happened was circumstantial and isn't an accurate indication of who he or she is.

When forgiveness truly becomes difficult is when we try to apply it to everyone.

With more than seven billion people on this planet and an increasing majority living in large city centers, regularly interacting with many people is quickly becoming a characteristic of life. This is especially true if you attend college or work in a busy office building or shopping mall.

Even something as simple and mundane as riding public transit into a city's downtown and walking to work could expose a person to interactions, however small, with hundreds of different people every single day.

Unfortunately, not all of these interactions are positive and there's no shortage of examples why.

Your boss is a real drill sergeant, constantly on your case about something. That lady in the SUV talking on her cell phone just cut you off in traffic and nearly caused an accident. The preppy guy who just got assigned to your group in class just won't shut up about how rich his family is. So on and so forth.

The easy reaction to these kinds of negative situations is resorting to judging other people. For example, the boss is a jerk, the lady in the SUV is reckless and the guy in the group is a spoiled brat. Whether these feelings are released as verbal frustrations or pent up as silent resentments is irrelevant.

The inherent fault of judging others in these kinds of situations, however, is that we rarely, if ever, know the full circumstances of how they come to be how they are. Human beings are inconceivably complex creatures who are always, to some degree, products of their environment.

We're always more willing to forgive those we love because we know them so well, so does it make sense to judge others when we don't know their personal stories?

Your jerk boss? Maybe his strict parents raised him to be how he is, but deep down, there's a caring and compassionate person. The lady in the SUV? Her husband has cancer, and she's rushing to the hospital because there's been a setback in his chemotherapy.

The spoiled brat in your group? His workaholic parents neglected him as a child, and he tries to cover up his social insecurities by bragging about his wealth. In these examples, like most in life, there's always more than what meets the eye.

Now, this article isn't meant to excuse bad behavior. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, but some decisions simply aren't justifiable.

Still, responding to a negative situation with negative thoughts and feelings, like judgment and resentment, only breeds more negativity.

It's possible to denounce an action or a personality trait while still adopting a position of compassion and understanding toward the individual behind it.

The majority of people in this world are good, so if we don't know a person's story, why not start with assuming the best, by default? As the saying goes, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. However, when we leave behind our feelings of judgment, it becomes so much easier to look on the bright side.