This post was partially inspired by the news reports on the Ferguson shooting and the New York choking case (both where black men met with the wrong side of white Police Officers with fatal results). However, it was also inspired by conversations with a couple of friends of mine on the subject of people jumping to conclusions about them based on the "evidence" in the public domain without making sure they knew all the facts.
Richie Sambora hit the nail on the head when he wrote and sang the lyrics "If you walk inside my shoes then you will understand who I am".
It is all too easy to jump to conclusions based on everybody else's idea of how someone should behave, or even your own personal experience of being treated by someone else in a similar situation to the one you currently find yourself in.
There is only a small jump from jumping to conclusions about someone based on everybody else's ideas on how they should behave and using your conclusions to bully them. After all, isn't that how bullying starts??? Find someone who is different to you - who you cannot be bothered to learn about - and slowly chip away at them in an attempt to make them behave like you???
We are never going to have the same experiences as each other - even if we are taking part in the same activity. Even when it comes to having a "shared history" with someone the other person's interpretation of it might be radically different from yours.
Judging someone based on how everybody else behaves is a cop-out. It is all too easy to think I am obviously an illiterate idiot if you find me asking if someone can read something out to me when you can read it easily (and you are standing the same distance away from it as I am). This "illiterate idiot" is a lot cleverer than she may first appear - her brain works as well as most people's - it is her eyes which are defective.
The "judging people by your experiences of others in a similar situation" has actually got me into trouble on a few occassions. You want fireworks??? Try making me feel "boxed in" by constantly pointing out the differences between us (either by making it obvious you think I come from another planet or by simply not listening to me when I try to point out why what you are trying to do to or with me won't work) and stand well clear. The chances are I will react based on the last time someone like you tried the same trick with me.
What you might not realise is that I may be reacting the way I am because I think I know exactly what is going to happen and why. There are occassions where I will deliberately set out to make you think of me in one way because it is the easiest way to a quick conclusion.
But we should not be so quick to judge each other instead of asking why we are acting as we are.
Second thoughts - scrap that last sentence. We should not be so quick to judge each other instead of truly listening to the other person and their reasons.
If I cannot read something I will probably make a joke out of it. Something like "can I borrow your eyeballs please? I cannot see to read the menu".
If there is a gap between me and where I want to go next on a lower level (with either a steep set of steps or a "flat floor" set of steps) I will either go at snails pace or I will walk off and find the nearest ramp, escalator, lift, etc. You can moan at me as much as you want to but my safety comes first.
Yes - I am sarcastic at times. No - I don't want to feel like I am a different species to everybody else. Yes, I do feel like I have to hide the full extent of my sight problems to make everybody else's life easier at times (I really wish I didn't but there you go). Yes, I am sure that if I looked hard enough I could find some fault with you which I could exploit in such a way as to cause you the same amount of pain as you are causing me. No, I am not that vindictive unless seriously pushed to the end of my tether. Why??? Because I have felt worse pain than anything you can do to me. Going to sleep hoping I never wake up is something I have actually experienced more times than I care to think about.
You have no idea of the amount of pressure I have to put myself under sometimes just so you think you are dealing with someone who is "acceptable" to be in your world. If you ever found out you would probably be shocked if not horrified.
We are all different - some of us are more different than others - some of us cannot change our differences (either because they are part of our genetic make up or because to change needs patience, time, and love - maybe even professional help).
We have to remember (and act on) the lyrics to the only U2 track I like hearing "We are one but we are not the same. We gotta carry each other".
(If you are old enough to remember The Hollies try these lyrics - "The road is long with many a winding turn, leading who knows where, who knows when...His welfare is my concern. No burden is he for me to bear. He ain't heavy - he's my brother". That was my Grandad's favourite song.)
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