“Everything turns on your assumptions about it, and that’s on you. You can pluck out the hasty judgment at will, and like steering a ship around the point, you will find calm seas, fair weather and a safe port.” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.22
In my opinion, Aurelius is saying that it is not what people do to us that cause our reactions, but how we perceive it. We can give people the benefit of the doubt or we can assume the worst of others. One of the biggest issues in society right now is we assume the worst from the “other side.” Both sides of the aisle scream names at the other side, whether that is Fascist from the left or Socialist from the right. We are now through the election in the US and hopefully, both sides will begin to have compassion towards the other and compromise on issues, including politicians and citizens.
Assuming the worst from another person or group is an additional stressor in your life and does nothing to help build and foster growth. It blocks off our minds to other points of view. Why are we so quick to judge others? Why do we hold others to the same standards we hold ourselves?
One thing I’ve grown to realize is everyone is trying to do the best they can with the information they have. We are all trying to make it in this world and we never know what someone is going through. For example, when we get cut off in traffic, we believe that person is an asshole, we get angry, yell, and honk. What if that person is trying to get to the hospital to see a dying loved one? Even if they are just a jerk, for our own sanity, it is best to assume they need to be somewhere quickly. We can take a breath, let it go, and move on.
In life, when we see others making excuses or believe that they are being lazy or ignorant, it can anger us. When this happens, we need to refocus on how we act and not get caught up in other people’s actions. Reminding yourself to: “Be strict with yourself but forgiving of others” results in less stress and allows you to be open to others’ points of view. We cannot control what others say or do, we can only control our response. Give others the benefit of the doubt. You never know when you might need it yourself.