No One Is All-Knowing…

“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I remember once walking down a hallway at a University with one of my professors. Someone had marked an entire wall with marker from end to end, just holding the marker against the wall as he or she walked. It was a pretty awful act of vandalism, and my professor looked at it and said “someone must have a lot of anger inside to do something like that.” No “What a jerk” or “What a stupid thing to do.” No condemnation of the culprit, no expressed desire for “justice.” She was almost sad as she said it, for she recognized that something like that was the result of another person carrying around a great deal of pain inside.

It was a very powerful lesson for me, one that I try constantly to emulate. I realize that every person on this planet is dealing with problems that I would have a difficult time dealing with, and it’s not up to me to judge and condemn them for their actions. Rather, it’s up to me to show compassion and to try to understand the root source of the problem.

For example, throwing a person in jail for stealing mobile phone (while leaving the billionaires thieves to continue to hold sway) is often like putting a band-aid on skin cancer–it’s a quick fix to make society look like a better place for the time being, but that person will get out and probably still have the anger and frustration inside that made him or her do the crime in the first place. Jails and laws are necessary, but we must strive to also look inside the individual to heal the pain and anger. We as individuals can choose to “walk humbly and deal charitably,” and we’ll then be contributing in our own small ways to making this world a better place, even if it’s just by showing compassion for someone else and making that person feel better about something in his or her life.

There is good and bad in everyone. Jung called the bad side our “dark” side. I feel fortunate that in my life, the darker side rarely shows. I know that the people who show that dark side, though, often aren’t in complete control of what they do, and would prefer not to show it. My compassion and love and understanding are going to go much further towards teaching them how to access their bright side than my anger and judgment will.

Questions to consider:

1. What does it mean to be objective? Is it easy to be so?

2. Why does Eleanor say that “no one is all knowing”? Why is that important?

3. At times when you’ve needed others to be non-judgmental and understanding, how has it felt when they’ve been that way? When they haven’t? How did each type of reaction affect you?

For further thought:

“The true joy of humankind is in doing that which is most proper to our nature; and the first property of people is to be kindly affected towards them that are of one kind with ourselves.” – Marcus Aurelius


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Filed under Commentary, Food For Thought, Living, Opinion

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