During one of the weekly language exchange events in Santa Marta, Colombia, a conversation broke out among some of the foreigners about the differences between their countries and Colombians. While some engaged in judging the way things are done in Colombia compared to their countries, one twenty-two-year old girl listened without saying a word.
When asked, “What do you think?”
She responded, “Who am I to judge what’s right or wrong? My way of doing things doesn’t make me better.”
An exchange of opinions took place before she shared a personal experience.
Here’s a summary of my recollection of her story and lesson learned.
One day, I went shopping for a particular item, so I didn’t take a trolley when I walked in the store. By the time I got in line at the checkout counter, I was carrying a bunch of other stuff I wanted to buy. I placed a set of earphones in my bag to free my hand and take out my wallet. My frustration over having to dig at the bottom of my big purse to find my wallet distracted me and I completely forgot about the earphones.
A few hours after I got back home, I remembered about the earphones and sure enough they were still in my bag. I never went back to the store to pay for them.
Although my intention was not to steal and it was an honest mistake, I did not correct my error.
At first, I was fine with this, thinking it was my lucky day. But, soon it began to haunt me. I was no longer able to use the earphones. They reminded me of an ugliness within me.
Here I am studying psychology and wanting to make a positive difference in the world, but I ignored my every day small actions.
I gave the earphones away.
Now, I am committed to bettering myself by being attentive to my daily actions, even when there’s no one around to witness any of them.
I’m still not perfect, but I learned that if I chose to judge others, I will limit myself from being the best I can be and from appreciating life instead of wishing it was different.
Maybe Colombia can grow and improve, but so can the rest of the world. In the last few months, I have discovered and learned so much from traveling across Colombia. Knowledge I never would have acquired from the education in my country. So, my knowledge was incomplete and I would never have learned anything new by judging them. Their ways are not better or worse than the rest of the world, they are different.
There is a story behind everything that is not familiar to us.
Yes, it may be hard for us to adapt at first, but if we approach that which is not familiar to us with an open mind, it will open our eyes and we’ll gain an understanding that things can be done in entirely different ways. It will open our hearts to recognize that which we all have in common and not criticize the differences.
I’ve shared my experiences with them openly with an understanding of their circumstances, but I’ve also learned from having them share their point of view with me. Deep down we are not very different. We all feel the same emotions, no matter our cultures or beliefs.
I still have a lot to learn. Whenever I get the impulse to judge someone, I try to use it as an opportunity to work on the things I dislike about myself. The very thing that bothers me in others, is somehow related to some quality or behavior in myself which I have neglected. This is how I chose to make a difference in bettering myself and in the world.
What do you think? Is judging others useful or limiting in bettering ourselves and making a difference?