Thursday, July 21, 2011

What you see is what you see. And that’s all, folks.

We look at people and judge them. Constantly. It’s human nature. Yet, we are taught from a young age not to judge a book by its cover, and I think most of us make an honest effort to avoid judging – even the inside of the book, right?! But granting that it is human instinct to make judgments about people (and not knocking the human race too badly for succumbing to this instinct at less-than-appropriate times), I’d like to discuss an important but often overlooked aspect of this tendency.

Don’t judge the whole person by the moment.

We all have bad days. We all say things we don’t mean (at least not with the 100%, eternal conviction we seem to at the moment. Husband, are you reading this???). We all have multifaceted personalities that manifest themselves at different times in different ways in different situations. This is something I try to work on with my kids a lot as they deal with their friends, and even with me. I do my best to teach and model an attitude of grace. But I fail a lot. Please don’t judge. :)

Anyway. Let’s apply this principle to “stuff.” Because that’s what I do these days.

Don’t judge the person by the stuff. In other words, don’t judge a person’s mindset about his/her possessions (or environment or living situation) by the possessions that person is surrounded by at the moment. It can take years for your possessions to catch up with your current mindset about them. This seems obvious if you consider people who have the mindset to acquire bigger, better, or more. But it also applies to people who are striving to downsize. There are so many decisions, events, people, and even situations beyond a person’s control that contributed to this one snapshot in time. You don’t know where that person has been or how far s/he has already come. You don’t know what external or internal barriers must be faced before progress is made. Even without significant blockades, simplifying is always a gradual, continuous process.

Come visit me and all my stuff if you need proof.

Unless you are told outright, you don’t know someone’s current attitude. And even then, that attitude is always developing.

I can think of many decisions surrounding “things” I/we have made over the years that I would probably go back and change if I could, and that would make my situation and my stuff look very different right now. I try not to dwell on these as regrets or mistakes, even though it isn’t always easy. Just as we expressed in our family purpose statement, I believe it is more important to focus on the present and how I can best direct my efforts to help my current physical reality match my current mindset.

But do you know what I like best about this particular application of suspending judgment? It really just reinforces the truth that the stuff you own does not define who you are. Doesn’t matter how big or small the pile (or its “container”) is.

Kinda cool, huh?

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