You might have heard the Native American proverb, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his moccasins.” I was wondering where it came from so I looked it up found out it came from a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895. The original title was “Judge Softly.” Mrs. Lathrap’s poem reminds us that everyone has struggles that we are not aware of and if you or I were in his situation, carrying his load we would likely also stumble and fall along Life’s journey just as he did. I encourage you to read the full poem here.
It would be good for us to remember that we don’t have enough facts to judge people objectively. We are distracted by outward appearances most of the time and fail to see who they are as a person, and so we misjudge them.
Isn’t it funny that we judge people on shallow things like their skin color or how they dress, but then we get offended when they want to judge us by the same standard? We should remember the Golden Rule and not judge people, since we don’t want them to judge us.
What is it about human nature? It’s like we have an urge to divide people into arbitrary groups and label them. Who is this helping? Politicians? Social anthropologists? Not the bright young man you called an idiot hipster. Not out loud of course. You would never call anyone an idiot out loud. But in our minds we do and then we form opinions of individuals based on the group label we think they wear. As if every member of any given group is alike in every way. How is that fair?
I get it, it’s so natural we don’t even realize that we are doing it. I remember working with a guy one afternoon when I was at the Missionary Training Center. I don’t remember what I said, but he responded, “don’t make me wear that label.” Then it hit me what I had just done. I had decided he belonged to a certain group and I had failed to get to know him as an individual.
Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if we could slow down and try to understand what people are going trough. Could we help people instead of criticizing them? In addition to the Golden Rule, perhaps we should practice another simple rule: Don’t criticize what you don’t understand. (Thanks Bob Dylan!) Let’s try to resist judging people, and putting labels on them, and just let them be who they are.
And the next time you feel the urge to criticize or label someone, first try to see life from his or her perspective and walk a mile in his or her moccasins.