Monday, March 8th, 2021

R Shopper Columns



Don't judge a person's life by one bad moment.

I had a friend who was a successful car salesperson. His office walls were lined with sales awards. Many times he had been salesperson of the month and even of one year.

Months went by before we saw each other again. When I did see him, he said that he had been sick and unable to work for several weeks.

As a result he was fired. I was shocked. 'Why?' I demanded. 'You were an outstanding salesperson all those months. Didn't that count for something?' He said, 'No. If you don't sell the number of units each month, you're fired.' His future came down to the present moment.

Relating to some people is like walking on eggshells. We have seen them cut off relationships because they did not like what was said or done. The frightening thing about these people is that they sever relationships without the other person's knowing why.

There is no second chance because they refuse to discuss the conflict. The future of a relationship with them rests on the present moment. It doesn't seem to matter how good the past was. All of it is discounted and forgotten.

Compounding the issue is that they have a self-righteous conviction that their interpretation is the only one; they are not interested in hearing a different one. They feel completely justified in their actions. Their interpretation is no longer an opinion; they see it as a fact and because it is a fact, everyone else is wrong unless they agree with them.

It is a frightening truth that there are some of us who let one bad moment, one disappointing event, one careless remark, one irritating personality trait say everything about another person. We may magnify that flaw or moment so that it speaks for the other person's life, motivation and character. Then we sort them into neat categories by attaching absolute global labels.

How we see other people determines how we treat them.

Wouldn't it be sad if we based our actions and life's decisions on a wrong interpretation? During a going-away party for a friend, he said, 'If I knew how much everyone liked me I would not be moving.' The truth was that no matter how much we expressed our love for him, he never really believed it. The sad part is that he based a life decision on a conclusion that was wrong.

When we become angry, the danger is to let one bad moment categorize a friend and then treat that person according to our label. How we think and process determines the consequences of our anger. We wind up staying angry. It would be wise to check out our interpretation with that person. We could be wrong!

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

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700