No human being can fully perceive another one because they didn’t walk their exact path or shared the same experiences. Our perception of others is always distorted by our own knowledge and understanding of reality.
A few days ago, somebody I love very much told me that my life is so incredible that many people think I’m telling a bunch of lies or just bragging or exaggerating when I speak about it. That person told me that even my kids were thought liars when repeating some of my stories. Since then, I’ve caught myself several times realizing that what I’m about to say may indeed sound a bit outlandish to others. My life is truly unique, though. Let me give you a few examples:
- I have six slipped discs and two bubbles in my spine. As a result, I should have been confined to a wheelchair more than ten years ago. Many people say it’s impossible to have so many lesions on a single back. Others, including quite a few doctors, believe it’s impossible to keep on walking with such back degeneration. What do you want me to say? The proof is there. I have all the images and medical reports and you only need to look at me to see me walking! What people don’t usually see is the frequent pain and the physical limitations because I learned to live with them.
- I met many famous people and collected quite a few anecdotes about that time. Well, I used to be a simultaneous interpreter and translated for the best in every possible field. Thus, I met Nobel laureates and scientists, actors and directors, politicians and even some royalty… Most people I encounter today know me only as a humanologist or even maybe as a writer. But I have a past, like everybody else. And let me tell you, mine included some fun times!
- So far, I’ve lived in 7 different countries for longer or shorter periods of time and visited 31 others. Can you imagine everything I’ve done and seen, everything I’ve learned in my life? No, you can’t, unless your life is a bit similar to mine, can you?
Why am I telling you all this? Because I think there’s an important lesson hiding in what happened to me a few days ago. People listen to me and, because their accumulated experience is so different from mine, they can’t fully imagine, even less understand, what I’m talking about. To them, it all sounds too fantastic, like figments of my imagination. Because their experience and everything they ever learned tells them something different, that nobody’s life is so incredible, and they obviously trust what they know, their only possible conclusion is that I’m lying. (!)
Theirs is the only interpretation they can be comfortable with. Based on their knowledge, on their past experience and on everything they ever learned, nobody has a life like mine. To them, their interpretation is the only possible one.
But what about me? I know my life is real! I can feel ofended, hurt, upset, angry or even disappointed by their reaction, can’t I? But will that change it? No, I’m afraid it won’t. There’s no way I can give them the experience and the knowledge that I have and that they’d need to interpret it from a different perspective in a few minutes or even a few hours. And at the end of the day, it’s not that they don’t want to interpret it another way; it’s just that they can’t.
Will I be like them and judge them based on my knowledge? Will I feel disappointed or hurt if they can’t interpret me the way I want them to? Then I’d be doing exactly the same they’re doing. I’d be judging them based on MY knowledge. I’d be telling myself, they should know better!
But they can’t.
And that’s my lesson. We judge others based on what WE know, based on what WE learned, based on OUR experiences and previous life. We never lived their lives. And in spite of that, we still judge them. How can we, I ask myself today. Every judgment I make will be unavoidably affected by my own worldview. I can’t see the whole person. I can’t know the whole person. Not even if that person is close to me. What I see is never the whole being but a small part of it. And if that is so, who am I to judge another human being?
Enjoy life, ALL of it,
Jessica J. Lockhart – humanology – www.jessicajlockhart.com
Jessica J. Lockhart is a humanologist, bestselling author and renowned international speaker. Follow her here: