"There is nothing in life to be feared or hated. Rather, there are only things to be understood." — Jonas Cain
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Old Man Marley was rumored to be the South Bend Shovel Slayer who tormented the suburbs of Chicago in the 1950s, but this rumor was greatly exaggerated with no bearing on reality.
When his young neighbor, Kevin McCallister, finally got over his fear based on the assumptions about the old man—and took the time to truly know him—he came to understand that Old Man Marley is actually a gentle and kindly old man.
I’m of course referring to characters from the hit 1990 movie Home Alone, and though this is a fictional example, it does point to the truth. I can think of times in my own life when I allowed assumptions about others to cloud my judgement.
During my undergraduate studies as Salem State University I took a class with a fellow student who from the first day simply rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t anything I could exactly put my finger on; it was just his attitude.
But as the weeks went on and I got to know him better, I came to understand that he was more than the attitude he presented; that he had his own story that was special and unique. By the last day of class I wouldn’t say that we had become friends, but what I can say is that my perception of him had greatly changed as compared to the first day, and it was all because I took the time to truly get to know him.
This is an encouraging story, and one that I think of often when I encounter new people, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that when we get to know others better we’ll always like what we come to understand about them—I had a roommate once who I at first thought was a pretty decent person, but once I lived with him for a while I realized I was greatly mistaken—but what this is to suggest is that we don’t allow assumptions to cloud our judgement, and to instead take the time to sincerely get to know others and understand why they are the way that they are.
How have assumptions clouded your judgement in the past? What might you do to overcome this tendency to better understand others?
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Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.