Are we seeing clearly when we look out at our life? How easy it is to criticize other’s actions or to jump to conclusions about the reason why they behave the way they do.
Yet, am I really aware of the truth behind people’s actions when jump to criticise? If I see someone speed past me, I might think they are being aggressive, but what if the women passenger is in labor ready to deliver? Wouldn’t I think differently if I knew the whole situation?
Although we depend on our perceptions as we go through our day, we are rarely seeing the whole truth. Our perceptions are colored by our past experiences, our biases, and our likes and dislikes.
I was well into my adulthood before I realized that what I see is not exactly what others see. It was shocking to realize that we could be looking at the same scene and see quite different things.
Let me share a well-known story to illustrate my point.
Once upon a time (don’t you love how fairy tales begin!), there were three monks who had never seen an elephant. They were blindfolded and placed around an elephant. Each monk was told that he was to touch the elephant and describe to the others what an elephant was like.
The monk at the head of the elephant felt the big ears and exclaimed that an elephant is flat, smooth, thin and always moving. The monk at the side of the elephant disagreed: he knew that an elephant was big, rough, and roundish and had a heartbeat. Finally, the monk at the tail told them they were both wrong – he was sure than the elephant was cylindrical, hard, tough, and hairy, and yes, always moving.
So, who was right? Well, we know that all of them were correct, and all of them were incorrect. Each was describing correctly, but none of them was able to describe the entirety of the elephant correctly.
What a great metaphor for improving human relations!
We might think we understand some aspect of life, but we may be only seeing the ear or the tail. We each have our own individual filters, which is why conflicts occur and misunderstandings happen.
Next time you run into a conflict or incongruity, stop and consider this. Rather than one right answer (yours), several right answers could be possible.
Try broadening your perspective to include other points of view. Can you “walk a mile in another’s shoes?” Can you open to the validity of their position – without making yourself wrong, of course?
Life on earth could be much more harmonious if we all recognized the validity of other viewpoints. If you can catch yourself before making judgments based solely on your individual perception, you will be doing your part to hasten world peace. Now that’s a perception we’ll all can to share!