Friday, May 20, 2011

"We see from where we stand" -- Haitian proverb

A few days ago I was driving through Hyde Park.  I stopped at a stop sign, for 3 seconds like the good citizen I am, and then proceeded.

I wasn't on the phone, or changing the radio station (because I can't change the radio station, my car's stuck on Magic 106.7), but for some reason I wasn't paying enough attention, and as I proceeded I cut off a woman who was crossing the street.

She stopped short and glared at me. "Fucking bitch!" she said, loud enough for me to hear.

I was shocked, at first. I wanted to stop and say, "No, wait, I'm sorry, I didn't see you, I'm actually a really nice person! I'm a pastor, for goodness sakes!" Then I thought of all the times that someone cuts me off when I'm walking or driving, and I think something similar in my head (with less colorful language, but just as angry: "ok buddy, you're in SUCH a hurry.")

The truth is, maybe the driver who cuts me off IS in a hurry. Maybe he's a nice guy who wasn't paying attention. Maybe the woman who yelled at me was having a bad day. Maybe I was one in a long line of people who weren't paying attention to her, and she was sick of it. She and I are only seeing from where we each stand, looking at the situation from our own individual perspectives, and that makes her short tempered with a potty mouth, and me self centered with little concern for others.

It's easy to see from where we stand. But it's also only half the picture.

 

1 comment:

David said...

This reminds me of the "Fundamental Attribution Error", which is a social psych term that means when someone does something that annoys us, we tend to assume that it's because they're a bad person and ignore situational factors that might have made them act that way. Social psychologists point out, though, as you have, that often explanations based on someone being a bad person are wrong.