Everyone We Meet…

When I shared with family and friends that I have bipolar disorder, I think that they were surprised, if not shocked.  After all, I hid my symptoms from everyone in my life for many years.  I have been very surprised at the outpouring of support and affirmation I’ve received from others, something that I never expected.  A wonderfully supportive husband, sisters, mother and friends have all greeted me with acceptance and love.  I can not imagine being more blessed.  I assumed that I had to keep my authentic self hidden.  I felt alone but this was a self inflicted wound. After all, if I never gave them to opportunity to truly know me, how could I expect them to understand and walk in my shoes?

picture of two sneakers sitting side by side

Our Judgements

Some months back, I was working on a project with a colleague.  One day, we were discussing how to proceed with a particular issue and I made a suggestion that he quickly dismissed.  I experienced him as unnecessarily controlling and unreasonable in his perfectionistic expectations.  He was a difficult person to work with, I concluded.  That is to say, I judged him harshly.  A few weeks later, we spoke on the phone and he apologized for being so dismissive of my ideas.  He began to share his story with me, one that originated in his childhood.

Their Shoes

He grew up in a home where expectations were unreasonably high.  No matter how well he performed or how well he behaved, it was never good enough.  So he arrived into adulthood with perfectionistic voices in his head that were harsh and condemning.  He lived in an inner world of self flagellation.  He then shared that his son was psychiatrically unwell and he felt that he had failed as a parent.  This tortured him. How unkind I was to judge him.  How unfair of me since I had no awareness of his life’s journey.  How unbearable it must have been over the years to live with himself.  I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to walk in his shoes.

Everyone Has a Story

This reminded me of a truism that I learned over the years as a psychiatrist but occasionally still forget when I feel wounded.  A truism that we forget when we judge and condemn without first attempting to understand.  A truism that becomes clear when we get to know each other.  A truism that wise others have noted:  Everyone we meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about.  Everyone we meet is making their way as they know best.  Everyone we meet has a history of pain and joy that makes them love and live a little differently than we do:  So, let’s be open and teachable.  Let’s ask first, then listen.  Let’s be kind.  Everyone has an untold story.

7 thoughts on “Everyone We Meet…

  1. I love what you are offering here John… there is a world of difference between judgement and understanding… judgement condemns the surface appearance or actions without bothering to look more deeply at the why… understanding offers space and love, knowing that what we see acting out is but the smallest part of the whole being and who knows what that being has been through and is going through right now?

  2. John, this is such a wonderful offering. The difference between judgement and understanding is huge… judgement compresses people into time and only looks at the small part of us that is visible to the human eye without asking why … understanding offers people space and holds them in love while they return to the truth of who they are, even if their actions or behaviour are off in that moment … a world of difference…

    1. Thank, you Anne. Your is a voice of wisdom and humanity. It’s a magical thing when we catch a glimpse of another’s true self. I believe that it is where intimacy and understanding are born. Hugs

  3. Interesting post John thank you. As time has elapsed since my retirement aged 55years in 2010 from Health Visiting (visiting families 0f children aged 0-5years) where I was in a priveleged position of sharing in people’s life stories and struggles I realise that their vulnerabilities were often a reflection of my own and many times I surprised myself at how my view of them often changed over time. The same applied to colleagues and of course to people in general.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! Your point is well taken. I agree that we often can catch glimpses of our human selves as we come to know others. How human…thanks for commenting.

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