Our attitudes and thoughts often have the ability to influence others - without us even realising it.
I was with a group of friends and a harmless enough judgment was made by one of the group about a person not present.
An unusual response, uttered by one of those present, sent a neuron to a part of my brain where it exploded - it challenged my thinking. It was an unusual perspective - "Well, I try not to judge people."
Like a lot of people, I tend to be judgmental from time to time, but this comment really struck a chord.
I thought wouldn't life be a lot easier, and wouldn't the world be a much nicer place if we all stopped judging people by our own standards and through our own evaluative lenses. After all, we do not know everything there is to know about this person, why they are the way they are and what experiences they might have had in life.
And, while it can be useful to make judgments, we all need to be a bit less judgmental - and even by saying that I fear I am being judgmental.
I came across a few wise thoughts that may help:
1) Don't take things personally: "Don't take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering."
- Miguel Ruiz
2) Look beyond appearances: "When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending."
- Thích Nhat Hanh
3) Embrace a compassionate attitude: "A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you."
- Dalai Lama XIV
4) Look for the lesson: "What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? What is a bad man but a good man's job? If you don't understand this, you will get lost, however intelligent you are. It is the great secret."
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
5) Adopt an attitude of gratitude: "I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers."
- Khalil Gibran
6) Focus your energy and attention upon those who love and appreciate you: "When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself."
- A Course in Miracles
So, my new goal in life is to avoid jumping to conclusions when someone makes a moral judgment that I do not agree with. Perhaps they just have a different lens to look through.
■Steve Baron is a Whanganui-based political commentator, author and Founder of Better Democracy NZ. He holds degrees in economics and political science.