People form opinions about each other as soon as they first meet. It has been working like this throughout the whole history of humanity. That’s not a bad thing, and even if we wanted to, we couldn’t change it. It’s in our nature. Judging others is common, and we’ve all done it. But we often judge people precisely out of lack of knowledge, and that is where we go wrong. You can never know for sure what motivates other people. Sometimes just ask yourself that question: What do I really know about this person? But to fully convey what I mean, I think I have to tell you my own story.
It happened two years ago.
This morning was like every other. I woke up, ate breakfast, went to school. It was boring as usual until our homeroom teacher came into the classroom with a guy who looked my age. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. If I were to describe him I would say that he looked scary. He was pretty tall, more masculine than my other classmates. He had light blue eyes and dark brown hair that seemed almost black. I know, I know! It doesn’t sound that bad at all. But the moment when my eyes wandered to his face, I felt some kind of uneasiness. He didn’t have an ugly or terrifying face, but there was a huge scar on the left side of his head. Nor did it help his appearance that his face was completely bored, almost emotionless. Suddenly I had so many questions. Like: Why does he look so bored? Did he drop out of his previous school? Maybe he wasn’t smart enought or was just careless. But most importantly. How did he get that scar? Is he a troublemaker? Is that how he got that scar, by picking fights with random people? Will our school become the new place of his rampage? My thoughts were interrupted by my teacher’s voice.
“Good morning, everyone! As you can see today our class has a new member. Please introduce yourself to the others,” she requested.
“Hi, my name is James West. Nice to meet you. I hope we get along,” he said in a monotone. Nobody said a single word.
“I expect you to help James integrate into the new environment.” The only answer was silence. “Now take your seat, James, so we can start the lesson.” He did it with an blank expression.
His whole presence was off. But I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, as my classmates’ whispers confirmed.
“That guy is creepy.”
“But he has got manners.”
“What a weirdo.”
“At least he know how to introduce himself.”
I didn’t know what to think of him. He gave us a proper introduction. He was polite and respectful. Also I felt like I could get used to his look. That wasn’t the problem at all. I think I’m very rational, but there is almost nothing which creeps me out more than when I don’t know what other people think or feel. I am one of those who likes to plan everything in advance. Most of my interactions with people are based on conclusions (I know what you think … I’ve been working on this problem) and it was pretty hard to do that with a person like James. So I decided the best option would be to ignore him. Completely.
This tactic worked pretty well for a few days, until our biology teacher paired us up to prepare a project for our next lesson. During this, I got a chance to have a better look at him. First I was very skeptical. I watched every move critically. To my shame, I even reproached him when he messed something up. So slowly I found out who James was exactly. He was a person who spoke very few words, but when he opened his mouth he always knew what to say. He was incredibly smart, but at the same time too honest. Like a little child. Even as everyone told horrible rumors about him behind his back, he didn’t say anything. He was very persistent and honorable. Without hesitation he returned a wallet to one of his bullies. I think he was unable to hurt others either physically or mentally. The time we spent together helped me to understand James more. It was a long proccess, but truly worth it. My mixed feelings began to fade away continuously. But what made my doubts disappear completely was when James told me how he had gotten his scar. He and his parents had had a car accident. A truck drove into them from the side. Luckily, he got away with minor bruises and some deeper cuts (like his scar on his face), but his parents weren’t so lucky. His father was paralyzed from the waist down. And his mother suffered third-degree burns and also had a lifesaving operation, as a glass shard had cut through her colon. To this day I feel nothing but respect for him. I was very sorry that I had judged him without knowing anything about him. But the truth is that when you judge others, you’re actually judging yourself. We have our own standards and and we judge others by these. Accepting this goes a long ways toward understanding others. Which is why we should never focus only on the surface; we should never judge others without understanding them first.