By VICTORIA SARNE
“A young couple moved into a new neighbourhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast the young woman saw a neighbour hanging the washing outside. ‘That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.’ Her husband looked on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbour hung her washing out to dry, the young woman made the same comments. A month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, ‘Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?’ The husband replied, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’ “ – Paulo Coelho
This amusing analogy reflects daily life. How often do we see things through our own narrow perspective and rush to judgement? What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look. We can see this in almost any ordinary situation. How frequently do eye-witness accounts of the same occurrence differ? How many paintings or photographs will you see and each of you see something different? This is not a test of eyesight but of perception and perspective, both of which are influenced by our mental and emotional processes.
If we look with any kind of bias – and we all have them to a greater or lesser degree – but are unaware of our own mood or current perspective then we may very well be mistaken in what we think we see. It’s very easy to take things at face value or make snap judgements but that attitude often causes negative repercussions or misunderstandings within families, friends or amongst professional colleagues.
On the surface we are probably aware that the day we are in a “bad mood” will cause us to behave uncharacteristically, speak harshly or do something hurtful and then be fully aware when that mood has passed that we were wrong and are probably embarrassed by our own behaviour. On a deeper level it’s sometimes more difficult to find that honesty within ourselves and see if we can identify where we are stuck and why. But we need to try. It’s normal human behaviour to not always be or feel at our best; but feeling angry, afraid, jealous or frustrated with unfulfilled desires and viewing life through that negativity colours everything we see or do or touch.
It’s not reality only our skewed viewpoint. If we act, speak or pass judgement like that in our interactions we may be not only damaging someone else, their actions, their reputation or their integrity but also our own. We can apologise and try to make amends and hope that no lasting dam-age has been done, but in certain circumstances, socially or professionally, we may have done untold harm to the victim of our behaviour as well as to ourselves, our career and our own reputation as a decent human being whom others want to be around or to work with.
Passing judgement on someone else does not define who they are but it does define who you are. Make sure that it is going to be a label you will be happy to live with. When in doubt, take the high road and look at whatever or whomever you are confronting with an open mind and heart and with the clearest eyes possible. I am certain that we would all wish a clear lens to be looking at us. It is said that our eyes are the windows to our soul – they are also our windows on the world.
(The above opening paragraph, originally titled “Dirty Laundry”, is a direct quote from the writing of Paulo Coelho, a 76-year-old Brazilian author ranked amongst the top 200 influential authors in 2016 and whose most famous books of his many, are probably “The Pilgrimage’ and “The Alchemist”)
PS: Another fine young Bahamian man to thank: Mr Roker of Keeping You Moving 24HR Mobile Tire Repair. He told me he would put on his Superman suit and get to me (stranded at Kelly’s with a flat tyre) in 10 minutes and so he did. Polite, a good sense of humour and with very reasonable prices. Attitude and service even in small things make a big difference.
• Victoria Sarne is an entrepreneur and writer. She headed a team to establish a shelter for abused women and children in Canada and was its first chairwoman. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.lifelineswritingservice.com, or call 467-1178.