“A dear and respected mentor, Rod MacCrae…. once told me that he knows much less now that he is in his late fifties than he did when he was in his twenties, which is when, he maintains, he knew everything.”
-Marke Winne, Closing the Food Gap, 2009 (pp 183)
Ten years ago, I believed I needed to be perfect, and that everyone else should be as well. I did not believe I was perfect, not by any means, but I did believe that it was indeed possible to be perfect. The old saying “nobody’s perfect” actually was upsetting to me, because I thought “perfect” is what everyone should want to be, so how could it be possible that perfectionism couldn’t happen? To be any good, you had to be perfect. The perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect woman/man/child/whatever, the perfect friend, the perfect spouse, so on and so forth. Consequently, I believed that an important characteristic of the ideal perfect person in which I strived to be would to know a lot about things. Not all things, mind you, but at least the things which people would identify me with (school and education, for one, was a biggie for this girl, but that’s a subject for another day).
Today, however, I realize that all I “know” is simply how I have experienced the situations in my life to this point. I know what I know, yes, but because I haven’t walked a lifetime, a year, nor even a day in your shoes, I really don’t know what you know. Our experiences in life no doubt all accumulate, forming the filter in which we are ultimately viewing the world around us. All of us are different from each other, no doubt, but each of us sees, hears, and deals with a diverse state of affairs on a daily basis, which may in no way show any similarities to someone else’s trip around the sun.
So why is it so difficult to not just automatically assume someone else is wrong when they chose to act in a way different than I think they should? That I don’t know for sure, but I consider it to at least be a part of human nature. We can’t help but have a natural, in-born tendency to judge those that are different, because we ourselves believe so deeply in the ways we choose to lead our own lives. Our experiences, after all, have us believing that how we are doing things is simply how they must be done. What we often fail to realize, however, is that it is the lifetime of experiences the other has had that leads them to do things the way they do them. Different than me? Yes. Wrong? Not necessarily so. I bet if I could spy into the thoughts and thinking of another person, I would find that they believe what they are doing is the right way and perhaps the only way, as well.
The fact is, I don’t know all that the person has gone through nor all of what they are presently facing. For all I know, the seemingly “crabby” cashier at the local big box store may have just been evicted because she could no longer afford to pay rent. And I don’t know about you, but I certainly would have a difficult time putting on a smile and a sunny disposition in that case, standing there serving scores of individuals of which the majority are probably treating me like a lesser human being than them in the first place. (I make that assumption from my experiences as well, having spent part of high school and all of my college years as a clerk/cashier at a convenience store. Those experiences taught me to be extra nice to those in the service industry, because I know that sometimes just a smile can really mean the world!)
Simply put, we don’t all look alike and rarely think alike, either. Though I am no where near a perfect study on the subject, nor do I believe in the existence of true perfectionism in anything, I am making a point each day to take note of what comes through my own mental filter, and then consider what may have gone through another’s filter before I form an opinion. Because I don’t know it all. But I do believe we all want to do the best with what we do know. I know I won’t always succeed, but I vow to never stop trying.