When I was little, my mother taught me a game. Whenever we were stuck in a doctor’s office or in a car for a long period of time and someone acted negatively, she taught me instead of judging that person to imagine a full life for them. Imagine that they have a family, how much their family must love them, their greatest joys, their sadnesses. She taught me that if someone was acting negatively in that precise moment, picture the reasons that must have caused it, that they genuinely must have had a terrible day.
Suddenly those strangers who I would never see again, who I may had judged on just the negative behaviour they displayed before me, became people, just like me who had bad days as well as good ones. Being able to look at people that way, as a whole, taught me about how flawed humans were from an early age and how that was absolutely okay. It taught me never ever to judge someone based on first impressions and more importantly it made me recognise that judging people based on limited information was probably the worst thing you could do as a human being.
You see, humans are ever changing. One seemingly minor event in your day can fundamentally change you as a person. Where once you practiced an awful habit, a week from now you could break it and never look back. This is why it is important to never form a concrete opinion on someone based on their behaviour on one particular day.
First impressions are not last impressions. If I judged everyone I knew based on first impressions, I would not have the lasting friendships I have today. I have grown up believing that all people are basically good, some of us have simply lost our way, some of us have been led astray. This is why empathy is so important. This is why recognising someone’s humanity and forgiving their capacity for making mistakes is so important.
Empathy is really the only way we can save the human race. Empathy is the way we can save ourselves.
When my children are little, I will teach them a game. Whenever we are stuck for long periods of time in traffic or at the doctor’s office, and someone acts negatively, I will ask them to picture a full life for those people. A family that loves them, their greatest joys, their sadnesses. I will teach them how to empathise with a person, by making them imagine the reasons why someone behaves in a negative way, and that human beings are flawed and that is okay from a very early age.