With Soft Eyes Print E-mail

You've met her for the first time at your friend's party. She's a bit quiet and not as well-dressed as you. She seems to lack the ‘finesse' that most of your friends usually have and, here's the clincher, she speaks when her mouth is full of food! Meanwhile, in the back of your head you're thinking, ‘Maybe this isn't the kind of person I want to be around too much.'


A little later you find out that the lady you met at the party is one of the nicest people your friend knows. She also happens to be having an extremely rough life. And then you remember her warm smile when she first saw you and wonder how someone going through so much could gather the energy to give somebody else such a beautiful smile.


How often have you experienced this? Sometimes it's a business associate, a colleague or a distant relative. Often, you size up the person in the first few interactions and create an image of him or her in your mind. After which, you view everything the person does from that frame of reference.


Fortunately (or unfortunately?), we humans are not as simple as that. There are times when we can act as angels sent by the gods and others when we can be plain nasty. All of us, without exception, have some extraordinarily fantastic qualities and some really bad ones. So judging people is similar to behaving like one of the six blind men in that famous poem where they try to describe an elephant. One of them touches the elephant's trunk and says it is like a snake while another touches its sharp tusk and says it like a spear. And both couldn't be further from the truth. Our problem is that, like the blind men, we look at only a few aspects of people's personalities and generalise them to the rest of the personality.


We are too quick to point fingers at others. Ignorant of our own glaring weaknesses, we authoritatively pass judgement on other people. And the worst part of it all is that we turn out to be the biggest losers. We miss out on their good qualities and, worse still, on the possibility of building beautiful relationships. There is much to learn from everyone we come in touch with, but only for an unbiased mind. This is why George Bernard Shaw said the most intelligent person he had met was his tailor. When asked why, he replied, “Because he is the only one who takes fresh measurements every time I go to him”. Similarly with us, it is important that we look at people we meet with a clean slate every time.


Another crucial factor in overcoming this tendency to judge others is developing a sense of understanding and empathy. We all have burdens and problems that we carry. If we acted with this awareness when dealing with people, we would make our lives a lot easier and more peaceful. How would I feel if I were in the other person's place? Would I behave any different? These are some of the questions we should ask ourselves when we're tempted to judge others. There is much more depth to people than we see. Even the seemingly most superficial person has an extremely humane element while the best among us have some very dark attributes.


From a higher, spiritual standpoint, it is important to understand that each one is a manifestation of the one, indivisible Divinity. The same eternal spark that lights you, lights everyone around you as well. And when you are able to see the One in the play of many, you learn to look at the world with soft eyes.