If she could only see it from my perspective. If he could just see the effect he's having. If only they could see things my way. These are the thoughts that go through our mind when we feel at odds with others.
Seeing--it's ultimately what keeps us separated. You see things this way. I see things that way. We're immovable in our positions.
We have our unique lens. It's shaped by experiences, failures, successes, the way our parents treated us, the way our hearts have been broken, the good fortune we've found, the hard times we've waded through.
Some call it bias. I like to call it a lens.
Much of what happens to us we didn't ask for, and it shapes our lens. The hopeful side of me wants to believe most people, even those I feel at odds with, close their eyes at the end of the day with a longing for something more. I want to at least assume everyone is doing the best they can, given their unique lens.
I know that's not always the case, and it may sound foolishly optimistic, but it helps me see the world with more grace, instead of assuming everyone is out to get me or inherently stupid and evil.
In my mind, I want to call someone
distressed before I call them difficult,
hurting before hurtful,
misunderstood before mean.
People are much more than their obvious traits and often fighting an inner battle we know nothing about.
Vulnerability breeds vulnerability, and over the last year as I've shared my story I've encountered others' stories: family dysfunction, sexual abuse, death, sickness, crippling depression and anxiety.
None of this is ever apparently obvious. It's not written plainly on the t-shirt of our server who hasn't refilled my drink in twenty minutes, got the food wrong, and messed up our check. What could one kind word, one gracious "it's no big deal," and a generous (undeserved) tip do for someone who is at the end of themselves?
I am determined to listen more, to seek first to understand then be understood, to pause and reflect before I speak. To assume everyone is bringing some sort of baggage to the table, not just make a judgment of difficult/hurtful/mean about them.
Some of the most helpful people in my own life peeled back calloused layers and ushered in new growth because of simple grace and patience towards me. When my lens was cloudy and smudged, it was empathy and encouragement that helped me see.
So whether it's your server, friend, brother, teacher, or boss, extend some grace today, even if it's as simple as listening instead of speaking.
Books I recommend: