It’s been 4 years since the woman who spoke these words passed. It’s one of my favorite quotes especially in this age of social media. We have been trained to give our judgement and opinion more than ever. These judgements are made so quickly because we are used to scrolling through multiple news items without reading the whole story. Those news items are published to create an emotional response.
We are trained to speak without seeing the other side. Today there was another post of a woman who did something socially unacceptable. A woman shaving her legs at a hotel pool. As far as I can tell, no one confronted this person, no one alerted the staff of establishment that this act was taking place. Instead, there was a picture posted on social media while everyone from around the world could label it as disgusting. There is something this does for us. It helps us feel better about ourselves because at least we aren’t as disgusting as this woman. However no one thinks about how the children of this woman will be easily identified in their home town, no one will realize that this will cause pain for the children, and probably a lifelong experience of bullying. This is for something that the children had no control over, but that their own mother was publicly shamed on the internet.
This was not an uplifting story which made us feel good about someone doing something lovely for others. It was not anything that made us feel happier about the world we live in and the good parts of humanity.
I pointed this out on a thread and was challenged with the response “but this woman deserves it!”.
Two weeks ago I saw a woman doing socially unacceptable things in a public area. A lot of people were giving her dirty looks and I am thankful there was no one with their phones out. I was curious as to why the woman was behaving in this way and struck up a conversation with her. To my surprise, she couldn’t have been more thoughtful or polite when discussing her situation. I discovered through having an open discussion with her that she was struggling in more ways than I imagined, and appearances were definitely different from the person that I had a conversation with. I realized it was judgement that caused this woman to be isolated and lack help from the greater community. I now keep an eye out for her so I can have a chat with her again.
She completely changed my assumptions about her.
We have the right to pass judgement and share our opinions, but how amazing would it be if we lived in a world where we thought a little more about the other person. Sometimes people surprise us. Sometimes there is more we can learn from those that do things that seem so different, or socially unacceptable. When we stop focusing so much on who did right and who did wrong, and we treat people who are so different from us as equals, we become blessings in other people’s lives. You will be someone like Maya’s quote – and people will remember how you made them feel.
For more of Maya Angelou click here.