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Thought of The Day – 8/13/14

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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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Advice from Socrates

This is a great story attributed to Socrates with a message that is more important today than ever:

One day, a man rushed up to Socrates, saying, “I have some news to tell you!”

Socrates put up his hand to stop the excited man.

“First let me ask you three questions,” Socrates said.

“Okay,” said the man

Socrates asked, “Is the news you are about to tell me something you personally know to be true?”

“Well, no,” replied the man.  “I heard it from a good source though.”

“Let’s go to the second question,” Socrates said.  “Is the news you want to tell me about someone you know personally?”

“Well, no,” the man said.  “But I think you know the person.”

“I see,” said Socrates.  “Then let me ask you my final question.  Is this news positive or negative?”

“Well, it’s negative,” replied the man.

“Let me see,” said the wise Socrates.  “You want to tell me some news that you don’t personally know to be true, about someone you don’t know, and the news is negative.”

“Well, it sounds bad when you put it like that,” said the man.

“I think I’ll pass,” Socrates replied.

Be honest.  How many times have we done this very thing?  Enthusiastically shared information or news about someone when we don’t know the facts, circumstances or possibly even the person we are talking about.  Even worse how often do we then make judgments about those individuals based on what we think we know?

The next time you are tempted listen to someone gossip, judge or criticize another person take a moment to think back on the sage Socrates and say, “I think I’ll pass.”


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“Today I want to belong. I want to feel safe and at home. I want to be aware of what it is like simply to be, without defenses or desires. I will appreciate the flow of life for what it is-my own true self. I will notice those moments of intimacy with myself, when I feel that “I am” is enough to sustain me forever. I will lie on the grass at one with nature, expanding until my being fades into the infinite.”
― Deepak Chopra

Don’t just read this quote and move on today.  Take some time to reflect on its meaning for you.

Do you feel safe?  Maybe you do physically, but what about emotionally or spiritually?  Can you be your true self in front of your friends and collegues? Or do you put up a false face to please them or avoid being judged?

Be honest.

Who are you really?  Look inside and remember.