Is it just me, or is it hard to have faith in people sometimes? So often I find myself writing some one off as being somehow unworthy of my faith in them because I question their judgement or motives. I can hear myself saying things like, “I wish they would make healthier choices, BUT they don’t have a very good track record.” Sometimes it sounds more like, “She is such a nice person really, BUT she just gets so nasty. I am not counting on her to change.” Sometimes I even go so far as trying to talk others into believing as I do. If a friend is saying how great someone is, I have felt somehow obligated to point out that person’s flaws. Am I trying to make myself look better, that may be part of it. But really I just cannot fathom how my friend could have such faith in this questionable character. I don’t want them to be duped.
This habit of mine has a definite air of arrogance. That some how I know what is best. When I catch these thoughts lately I recognize them for what they are and let them pass on by. I no longer feel the need to distance myself from someone to prove my own good judgement. I can extend my compassion to them, knowing that sometimes life is hard. Understanding that sometimes it doesn’t feel like you have any good choices available, so you just pick the one that seems the least bad or maybe the most fun.
The strange thing is, that the quality I probably admire most in others is the ability to see the good in everyone. This is a quality I really tend to in myself, hoping to help it grow and flourish. I just listened to a story on The Moth storytellers podcast by Ellie Lee about her father Ming Lee. She told how he opened a low cost grocery store in Boston’s Chinatown and grew the business to be almost a living member of the community. How when it burned down, several Chinese women were standing across the street crying because they felt they had lost their home. In Ellie’s attempts to learn more about her father’s life she would often ask him to tell her stories from the grocery store. One story he told was of trailing a 10 year old shoplifter around his store. The boy was blatantly stealing food and stuffing it into his backpack. At one point he even stopped and sat down in the aisle for a lunch break, chowing down on his stolen food right in the store. Ming Lee approached the boy and asked him if he had enough to eat. The boy said, “Almost” and continued munching away. Then Ming started to work his magic!
He found that the boy’s parents were at work and that the boy had no food at home. Ming told the boy, “When you take stuff, especially at a store, and you don’t pay for it. That’s stealing.” The boy started getting nervous and began angling for a way to escape. Ming continued, “In the future, if you don’t have any food at home. Please just come find me and ask me for whatever you need. If you ask I will give you whatever you want. Just don’t steal because stealing is wrong.” Ellie knew that her father must have enjoyed the times when the boy came in to the store. That was how he was. He saw the good and met people in that place inside of themselves.
What is a mistake really? A misstep. A decision you made that had a different outcome than you expected, maybe. Acting on the belief that things would go one way and having them go another. Isn’t that how we all learn best?
In other words, life.
I am slowly loosening my grip on the belief that if I can see the weakness or faults in others I can protect myself from harm. I am slowly starting to embrace the belief that life sometimes looks messy and there can be beauty in the mess.