“Be Curious, Not Judgmental” is a quote often attributed to Walt Whitman. While Whitman did not write those exact words, the truth of this statement might as well be his. In a world that seems so fractured, it is easy to judge the actions of others from the frame of our own reference. Our rush to judgment does not serve us well. It’s much more difficult to step back and ask why? Why did that happen? Why did he say that? Why did she do that? When we don’t have enough information we fill in the blanks with what we assume. However, the real superpower we all have is to ask why, what, how and when. To assume that another is acting with malice is to assume the worst. In so many instances the worst was never their intention. Seek and ye shall find, ask and ye shall understand.
I find the words of Oliver Sachs to be helpful here: “Our minds are meaning-making machines, constantly making assumptions, judgments, and looking for patterns. This is not an inherently bad trait – it kept humans safe as we evolved for a very long time. However, interpersonally these same tendencies may not serve us as well. Our internal narratives can be filled with bias, can be self-destructive, or can result in hurting someone else. At the end of the day, our judgments can be the lens through which we understand the world and that lens is foggy at best, opaque at worst.”
Our Minister Emeritus Frank Hall would often quote the poet Miller Williams at the end of worship. Now, especially, we owe it to one another to show compassion when judgment seems so much easier.
“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” (“Compassion” by Miller Williams)
Yours always, Rev. John