The passing of Robin Williams brings to bear the truest meaning behind these words.
And yet we feel it is our right and privilege to judge the lives of others. We feel compelled to voice our opinion about other peoples’ actions, thoughts and beliefs all without considering what their experiences and memories might be. If they do not do as we would do, then they are wrong.
But what right do we have to do so? What is it that makes our experiences, memories and perceptions so much more honorable and faultless than another human being’s? Because they are ours? Because our society says so?
I have seen many tweets and posts saying Mr. Williams was, “a coward” or “selfish” for taking his life and leaving his family.
Of course, people are entitled to have this opinion. They too have experiences and perceptions that influence their response.
I first ask, who are we to judge? With very few exceptions none of us knew Mr. Williams let alone knew his life’s experiences, memories and perceptions. How can we then pronounce a verdict on his actions.
And second, I ask you to consider what effect you think these types of comments have on his loved ones as they grieve? Do you think it makes them feel better to see people who did not know their loved one criticize his behavior?
Imagine how someone you may not even know, having just lost a loved one to suicide, might feel about your comments.
The reason I ungraciously take advantage of this tragedy is that it does allow us the opportunity to look at how often we make unnecessary and unsubstantiated judgements about other people based not on their beliefs and experiences but on our own. In addition, it sheds light on the perhaps unintentional harm we do to individuals who see or hear our judgments.
The truth is none of us are qualified to criticize or judge another person just as they are not qualified to judge us.
We are probably never going to stop judging others but if we can become more mindful of what we are thinking, saying and doing we may just make a small difference in the world.
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