by Dr. Bill Austin
In class we were talking about forgiveness when someone shared a thought that captured our attention. As we thought about what she said, we realized how true it was. She said, "When others do wrong, we want justice, but when we do something wrong, we want mercy."
It is probably fair to say that most of us do not hold ourselves to the same standards as we hold others. Thinking about how that's true for me, it doesn't take long before an example comes to mind. Driving on the expressways from Norfolk to Virginia Beach can be a very stressful time for me. There are drivers who are jumping from one lane to the other. There are others who tailgate. Then there are the speeders. When I see them flying past me, the thought comes to mind, "I wish the police would catch them." I look at my speedometer and see that I am speeding! No worry! I justify my speeding by thinking their crime is worst than mine!
The class thought the reason that we are more forgiving of ourselves is because we understand why we did it. It is also true that when we apply that theory to others and try to understand the person behind the "wrong act," we tend to be more compassionate and forgiving.
Conversely, we seem to be more judgmental and harsher with people who exhibit traits that we find difficult to accept in ourselves. We have heard the saying that when look at what we criticize about others, we might find these traits are what we do not like in ourselves. Instead of dealing with those traits, we criticize them in others.
Another reason we have a double standard is because we make judgments about others with only partial information. The following scenario is one of my favorites because it illustrates how easy it is to misjudge someone.
A young lady was waiting for her flight in the boarding room of a big airport. As she would need to wait many hours, she decided to buy a book and a bag of cookies. She took her book and cookies and found a seat around a table. Soon a gentleman joined her at the table. He opened his magazine and began reading. Meanwhile, she reached in the cookie bag and took a cookie. All of a sudden, he reached into the cookie bag and got a cookie too! She felt irritated but said nothing.
Every time she took a cookie, so did he. She was furious but kept quiet. When only one cookie remained, the man, taking the last cookie, divided it into half and slid it to her. That was too much! In a huff, she took her things and stormed to the boarding place.
When she sat down in her seat, inside the plane, she looked into her purse to get her eyeglasses, and, to her surprise, found her bag of cookies was there, unopened! Suddenly, she had a completely different judgment of the man.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700