“To love a man enough to help him, you have to forfeit the warm, self-righteous glow that comes from judging.” – Ron Hall
When there are 15,000 paid attendees at a conference, as there were at SHRM13, there are going to be a lot of times when the swarm is all moving in basically the same direction – up or down, right or left. You hear a lot of people say, “mooooo,” because they feel like driven cattle.
You also hear and read a lot of tips from people about so-called courtesies they can extend to help keep the crowd moving along at a brisk pace. One of these tips – I heard it repeatedly at last year’s conference in Atlanta – was to walk up and down the escalators, much like people walk on moving walkways in an airport. This gets people up and down faster, and helps prevent the lines that form in front of escalators, according to the tipsters.
At last years conference, though, I was about 8 weeks away from a bilateral total knee replacement, and there was NO WAY I could walk up and down those escalators. I could barely get up and down out of a chair. So I endured some of the heavy sighs and under-the-breath grumbling I heard, even though it hurt to hear them. I was physically unable to do anything else. But I wondered, and wonder still, if people would have been so quick to judge if they had known my circumstances. Would they have been more compassionate, more loving and forgiving?
This year I could almost run up and down those escalators, thanks to my knee surgery. But I had a different problem that reared its ugly head – several times – during SHRM13.
The worst time was on Monday night, when a gentleman approached me and said, “Hello, Joan!” I stared at him with a panicked look on my face because I could not remember his name, even though I have interviewed him before and have looked at his picture online several times. I could see the look of surprise, and then disgust, on his face before he finally told me his name. It was clear that he was unhappy. But I have a reason why I forget people’s names, or, sometimes call people by the wrong name. Even people I know well. And it’s not snobbery, or smugness, or inattention, or lack of caring, although people clearly judge me so.
I forget or mistake names because almost 15 years ago I had a stroke. It was a mild stroke, and I was fortunate not to lose any mobility or have any permanent speech impairment, although if you stick a pin in the left side of my face I won’t feel it. But that stroke left me with almost no capacity to remember people’s names. I once called my daughter by my dog’s name.
My daughter knows my problem and laughed it off, but my professional connection at SHRM13 gave me a withering look of negative judgment. Would he have been more compassionate if he knew of the impaired part of my brain damaged by stroke?
But nothing was stopping him from reacting compassionately. Nothing stopped him from saying, “My name is _____” with a smile instead of a look of hurtful disgust. Just like nothing was stopping the people on the escalator from smiling and standing still, even if the crowds weren’t moving as fast as they would like. Their patience would have been appreciated by the person in front of them whose escalator ride was a momentary respite from extraordinary pain.
We all know that some behaviors are simply rude or boorish, deserving of negative judgment. But I bet if you analyze it, a lot of your judgments about others are just a way to get a “warm, self-righteous glow” for yourself, without any thought of others.
Maybe we can all try to find that glow in love, understanding, and compassion for individual circumstances instead of judging.