Judging Without the Facts
Telling stories is an integral part of the human experience. We go through life viewing the world through our personal lens, making observations about situations and the people we encounter along the way. Oftentimes, when we don’t see the entire picture, we create inaccurate details in our heads that could potentially give way to negative consequences.
My good friends recently told me a story that illustrates what happens when we judge others without knowing all the facts, and how our perception might change for the better when we are given all the facts.
This is their story:
A man paid his tab at an airport bar and then stumbled and slurred his words as he made his way toward the gate to board a plane. Witnessing his drunk behavior, the other passengers in line snubbed him, and the ticket agent furrowed her eyebrows in disgust when he handed his ticket to her. Shaking her head, she informed him that he would not be allowed to board the plane because he was inebriated. When my friends, who were traveling on the same flight, heard the ticket agent ban the man from getting on the plane, they ran up to the airline employee and told her that it was imperative that he get on his flight and promised to watch over him while on route to Aspen. Why did my friends decide to defend the drunk man? The answer is simple: they had heard his backstory.
While their flight was delayed, the man had grabbed a seat next to my friends at a bar across from their gate. Sipping their wine, my friends chatted with the stranger as he drank a beer and a half. During their conversation, the man told them about a near-fatal rock climbing accident that left him in a coma for weeks. Still recovering from his debilitating injuries, which included massive head trauma, he had difficulty walking and talking––but his condition wasn’t going to stop him from getting on a plane to Aspen to attend the funeral of a good friend, who, at the young age of twenty-eight, had passed away from a sudden stroke. With achy hearts, my friends told the man how sorry they were for his loss and how honorable it was that he was attending the funeral in his condition. Soon after, when the announcement was made that their flight was boarding, my friends walked behind the hobbling man toward the gate to witness the ticket agent berating him. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, the man was permitted to board the plane, with a warning to my friends that they had to be responsible for him. The flight to Aspen was smooth, and the man made it in time for the funeral.
If my friends had not been sitting next to the man at the bar, they never would have heard his story, and they certainly wouldn’t have offered to look after him on the plane. Like the ticket agent, they too might have assumed he was drunk and wouldn’t have wanted him on the flight either. Imagine how different our world would be if we all knew each other’s backstories? Would we be so quick to judge the homeless man on the street or the weary single mother who forgot to take our order at a restaurant or the angry bank teller whose wife was just diagnosed with a terminal illness or the school bully whose parents verbally abuse him at home?
I’m not making excuses for those who treat others poorly. I’m just suggesting that we walk through life with our eyes wide open, using caution before passing judgement and trying to be open-minded about other people’s circumstances so we have a better understanding of why people behave the way they do. By doing this, we might encounter a life filled with more compassionate connections––like the ones my friends made with the man heading to Aspen.