You’ve heard people gossip about someone else. Perhaps you joined in! Maybe you heard the sordid details and thought to yourself “How could someone do something like that?” People tend to thrive on gossip – even shows and movie plots are centered around it.
Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird said that we never know what a man goes through until we walk in his shoes. This universal theme is quite accurate, and it is the primary reason why we should never judge another person. Simply put, we do not know the entire story.
Let’s begin by examining a phenomenon that is becoming more and more prevalent – homelessness. As we see scenes on television of tent cities and streets littered with trash left by the homeless, we may quickly label these individuals as addicts who are unwilling to work. However, at a time when the economy has been so unpredictable, it is no surprise that the amount of homeless people is staggering. Some lost their homes during the subprime mortgage crisis in the late 2000s, while others might have lost their jobs during the ensuing economic crisis that followed the crash of the housing market. We cannot judge the homeless without walking in their shoes because we do not know what road led them to that place.
Those of us who have ever lived for any amount of time in a small town understand how the community seems to know the goings-on of every neighbor. If someone’s child gets into trouble at school, many other parents will chitter and gossip about that child. This holds true even when their own children have just as must potential to get into mischief as the child that was caught.
Divorce and separation are also situations when people like to judge without knowing both sides of the story. Divorce tends to bring out the worst in people, and there are times when people lose friends because that so-called friend believes only one side of the story.
People tend to judge one’s lifestyle choices. There are those who judge people because they don’t live by “normal” standards (for example, think of someone who chooses to live off-grid). The general public might look at that person as being “weird” when that person’s choices don’t even affect them. We should never judge others because we do not know what has happened to them in the past that caused them to be at a certain point in life.
Like Atticus Finch, we should all try to change our mindsets to put ourselves in the shoes of others. We may judge someone based on appearances, but, those appearances can be deceiving. The girl who never wears name-brand clothes might be the female with the most generous heart. The young man who works twelve-hour days to put himself or a family member through school may be much more mature than his peers. The neighbor that you hear rumors about might be the most friendly person on your block. When we try to see others based on their circumstances rather than their appearances, we become much more forgiving regarding the acceptance of others.
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation” – Paulo Coelho