We realize that everything we do to others we do to ourselves. Yet with differences in beliefs and way of life it’s difficult to see others as being one with us.
So how do you reconcile these apparent differences to explore a cohesive union?
The shift in understanding happens when you realize that all that you dislike, resent or judge in others actually might represent something that you deny or have not fully expressed in yourself. For example, suppose you are conscious of your weight; then a stray negative comment on the subject will probably hurt.
Similarly we often end up feeling resentful of people that we envy.
For example, you might resent someone who is very outspoken but if you dig deeper you might realize that it is you who feels unable to express how you really feel.
At times we are blind to the presence of the very qualities in us that we resent in others. For instance, how many times have you seen someone comment on a quality of someone else that they themselves exhibit, and yet appear oblivious to it.
Every time you feel tempted to judge someone, hold back and check if the judgment is telling you something about your own state of mind. Everyone we meet has a lesson to teach us about ourselves, but we can learn this lesson only when we decide to suspend judgment and use the experience to better our self-awareness.
The obvious question then arises: should we refrain from all judgment and wouldn’t that affect our quality of decision-making or the ability to make choices? No it wouldn’t.
The real question is not of judgment but of dispassionate observation and reflection. If we can view and explore a certain quality about someone to learn more about life or ourselves, then the other person becomes our teacher. The natural outcome then is understanding, compassion and even gratitude to them, even if you do not subscribe to their opinions and choices.
An example, in this, as in so many aspects of life, is Nelson Mandela. After being unjustly imprisoned for 27 long years he could still say this: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Mandela did not allow his long incarceration to color his judgment or prejudice him against a race. In fact, he used his experience to envision a vibrant and united country free from discrimination. Following his jail term, he embraced President F.W. de Klerk (the last head of South Africa under the apartheid era) and then served alongside him in a transitional coalition of national unity. The two men won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
When you refrain from judgment and use the insight to explore your own assumptions you achieve greater understanding and happiness.