Over the past couple of weeks, several people with whom I work have gotten new eye glasses. Each one of them picked out something that suited their tastes. Some are metal framed, some are plastic. Some have colored bows, some are silver or gold. Some have frame all around the lenses, some only have half frames. Each pair of eye wear is unique to the person wearing them. In the nursing center where I work, I am amazed at how many pairs of eye glasses turn up on my desk each week, and no one knows to whom they belong. Once the glasses are removed from the face of the wearer, they seem to lose their uniqueness. Each frame and each prescription are made exclusively for the individual and it is through those lenses that the wearer sees life.
Just like the difference in view through each prescription lens, we all have metaphorical lenses through which we view life. From the moment of our birth we begin to see life through our unique experiences. We hear and see things we’ve never seen before. Each new experience becomes a part of our story, a place from all subsequent stories to begin. Our new minds, ripe for knowledge, see and hear information and believe that it is true. The information enters through the lens of our mind and becomes subject to interpretation based on our previous experiences. Through all of this we create new stories unique to each of us and use these stories to judge ourselves and others. We also use them to justify why things must be the way they are and no other way will work.
Because each of us have lived different experiences in different orders in our life, we will see things in our own unique way. It is easy for us to look at what others are doing and judge their actions thinking we would do things differently, but until we are able to see things through their lenses, exactly as they do, we do not really know that for sure. I am writing this to remind myself how easily judgments sneak into my mind, sometimes without any awareness that I am doing it. Thankfully, I have been presented with several opportunities this week to work on this subject. Being aware of my thoughts, feelings, and reactions help me to learn about myself and how I can more effectively interact with people in my life.
As we accumulate more stories, the view through our lenses will change. Sometimes an experience will broaden the view of our lens; sometimes it will narrow it. Think about a situation in your life when you’ve made up reasons (or excuses) as to why something wouldn’t work for you. Each of those reasons is part of the story that you tell yourself, but is the story true? Perhaps it was true at one time, but does that mean it always has to be that way? This is how we get stuck in negative patterns. We believe the stories as absolute truth and stop questioning from where they originated. Who says it has to be that way? Is it possible that there are other options? If you answer no to that, then ask yourself if that is true? Begin to question the answers that you give yourself. Often, the answers will just be another layer of excuses. By questioning your logic, you will begin to break down the excuses, first a little at a time, and then more and more as you begin to see through them.
When I noticed myself feeling angry regarding something that a friend was going through, I stopped and listened for the judgmental statements behind the anger. I then started to question those judgments. I asked myself, “Would I possibly make the same choice if I were in the same situation?” I heard myself answer, yes. I realized that she was doing the best that she could at this moment in time. Her choices were being made in support of what she needed for herself. I felt my anger disappear. Each time I’ve made a choice to do something, I’ve made it based on knowledge accumulated through past experiences. If I look back on the choices I’ve made and hear judgments or regrets, I remind myself that the choice was right in the moment, that I was working with the information I had available to me at that time, and that I can make a different choice now based on what I’ve learned.
Next time you feel angry or judgmental about someone else’s actions, try looking at the situation as if you were wearing their lenses. Imagine how they might be feeling and then ask yourself, what you would do if you felt like that? It’s easy to say you wouldn’t make that choice, but is that really true? Perhaps you would if you saw life the way they did and felt the things that they felt. Practice being empathetic. Remember, empathy means imagining what it would be like to feel what another person is feeling. When we accept that we are all different because of the unique set of lenses we each wear, then perhaps we can show more empathy and less judgment when people don’t make the choices we feel they should. Their choices belong to them and are an integral part of their journey, just as your choices are to you.
Yours in transformation,