Things aren’t always what they seem like from the outside looking in. I made mention to this briefly in yesterday’s posting but felt it might be best to elaborate on this a little more. Because of my own experiences of what I’m going through with chronic pain, I’ve come come to understand that I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover anymore. And for a long time I did.
Growing up in a family that was judgmental often, it was easy for me to become that way too. As I grew older and became more active in many types of addictions that consumed my life, my judgments of what my eyes were seeing around me also grew. If I saw a person driving recklessly on the road, I swore profusely at them and called the driver many awful names. If I passed by someone begging on the streets with a cardboard sign and a cup, I would avoid them and think they just need to get a job. If I watched someone cutting in a line I was waiting in, I would get quite angry and vocal about it as I thought what makes them so special. If I observed a person parking in a handicap spot somewhere, I would think they were cheating the system if I saw them get out and not have any visible signs of disability. And so on and so forth.
My whole perception of this with people and life changed dramatically though three years ago when all of this pain started and my own little world of judgments that I had created began to cave in. I found myself doing much of the things that I had judged others doing for years. I drove recklessly out of anger from what I was feeling in my body. I wasn’t able to work and started asking others to help out with paying for things I was still partaking in. I cut in lines because it was too painful to stand for any length of time. I parked in handicapped spots on days when the pain was too unbearable to walk very far.
Life turned into an endless stream of me limping around, acting like a gloomy Gus, and making sure everyone knew I was hurting and disabled. As time has passed since then, I have grown stronger in my ability to conceal the pain. This world has a lot of misery in it, and I decided as time passed with the pain I was enduring, that I needed to do my best to not add any more to it. Unfortunately, that also brought about the same behaviors happening to me that I once did to others.
A few weeks ago when I was at the airport getting ready for a flight, I went to the counter to ask for an early boarding slip because of the difficulties I have in standing for any period. The man at the counter looked me up and down and I could feel he was judging me as I once judged others. He then asked me what my disability was and gave me a look like I was making it up when I told him. Several months back I went to a movie screening and while I was waiting in line, I asked for a chair to sit in for the same reason I asked to pre-board that plane early. A short time after siting down on the chair that was brought to me, a theater employee told me he was going to need the chair I was sitting on. I responded that I needed it because of my own inability to stand for long periods and he looked at me and said it didn’t look like I had any disability and walked away irritated. Sadly, both of those people judging me for what they saw was what I did for many, many years.
Because of what I’ve learned in all of this, my compassion has grown for all people today. These judgments I once spewed out of my mouth have grown less and less. And I’ve been able to see things with a completely different set of eyes. When I see a person now driving recklessly, or begging, or cutting in line, or parking in a handicapped spot when they don’t look handicapped, I remind myself that I don’t know their story and I don’t know them. Maybe that reckless driver is heading to the hospital to see someone close to them who is in dire straits. Maybe that person begging has just lost their job, has two young kids to feed on their own, and the money from unemployment isn’t enough. Maybe that person cutting in line has someone waiting for them out in the car that is abusive and they are afraid of being beaten down in some way if they don’t hurry up. Maybe that person parking in the handicapped spot is just like me, concealing their pain so as not to draw attention but secretly cringing with every step they take. Sure, I could look at each of these incidents on the negative side thinking they are cheating some system, and say what I used to, but I choose to look at them now with compassion instead. It has made me a lot less angry and irritable based person.
The bottom line in all of what I’m saying is pretty simple. As much as I was angry at God for a long time about all of this pain, I am realizing now that it’s been a gift because it’s helped me to see things so differently that once irritated me and brought out a lot of judgments. When I see something today that sets off those parts of my brain which once lead me to judging any book by its cover, I am able to create a completely different story. One that has compassion. One that has patience. And one that is filled with God’s love for all people and all things no matter what their cover may look like.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson