In Harper Lee's classic novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird" Atticus Finch says, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it".
We invited my colleague and his wife for dinner several times. He was always evasive and came up with different excuses. We were offended and thought that they were avoiding us.
Days later I found that my friend and his wife were in the middle of a divorce.
I had an employee who, I thought, was very tardy. He was always late for meetings and had difficulty meeting deadlines. In confronting him, I found that he had two children undergoing treatment for Sickle Cell Anemia. Being a single parent, he was trying to balance his time between job and family need.
A close family friend of ours suddenly stopped being in touch with us.
Phone calls, emails and other means of communication were fruitless. Naturally, we were angry and felt slighted. Later, we came to know that she was going through a severe depression.
Mentally, she was unable to socialize.
We knew a Turkish couple when we were in Columbus, Ohio. Being new to the Country, they were struggling to speak English. When we saw their six year old daughter having trouble speaking, we assumed the same situation. We came to know later that the child was born deaf and hence her challenge speaking.
We have heard the story of a man with two young boys travelling in a plane.
The kids were very unruly and the crew blamed him for not keeping them under control.
The man apologized explaining that they were just returning from his wife's funeral and his mind was not in the boys activities.
How quick are we to condemn others? Do we always give others the benefit of doubt?
We blame others for not being in touch. How do we ourselves measure up in that score?
We get upset with others for trivial things. For similar things we do, we always have an explanation.
According to author Stephen Covey, "We judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their behavior".
Marcus Aurelius said in his "Meditations", "Whenever you are about find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?"
To walk in others shoes however, first, you have to get off your own.
Perhaps, for many, that is the biggest challenge.