Have you ever made an assumption about an incident, event or person and discovered later you were mistaken? Did an initially negative experience ever produce a positive result? Has a situation you labelled “bad” eventually turned out “good” in hindsight? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will understand the futility of judgement.
The story is told of a young couple who moved into a new apartment. One morning, the woman looked out of her kitchen window and saw the neighbours’ laundry drying on a line. The clothes looked dirty, really dirty. ‘I don’t think they know how to wash clothes. They look so dirty!’ said she to her husband. ‘Maybe they use a lousy detergent!’ added the husband absent-mindedly, his face still buried in the newspaper.
A few days later, this happened again. She shouted to her husband, “See darling, the dirty-looking laundry again!” Derogatory remarks about the neighbours’ incompetence continued to be exchanged.
Then, one Sunday morning, the woman was in for a surprise. She looked out of her window and saw really clean laundry. ‘Ah!’ she exclaimed. ‘They finally learnt how to do it right. Perhaps someone taught them how to wash clothes!’
‘Actually, darling,’ said her husband, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’
The story only confirms what behavioural scientists have maintained all along. We see things not the way they are but the way we are! Our windows-our tinted glasses ¬ significantly impact our view of the world.
Think for a while. How many flowers do we trample when we tread without looking? How many souls do we wound without taking the trouble to reflect first? How much do we prevent others and ourselves to enjoy because we cast as evil something which is actually a positive act and a gesture of good will?
There was once a wise farmer whose prize stallion had escaped from its corral during the night. His neighbour, upon hearing the news, went to visit the wise farmer and said, “Bad luck.” “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” replied the farmer. Just then the stallion returned to the corral leading a herd of wild mares. “Good luck,” said the neighbour. “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” answered the farmer. The next day the farmer’s son broke his leg while attempting to tame one of the wild horses. “Bad luck,” said the neighbour. “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” responded the wise farmer. The next morning the army knocked on the farmer’s door looking to recruit soldiers for war. His son was spared due to his injury.
As the story of the wise farmer illustrates good and evil are relative concepts, defined by each other. Without evil or bad, for comparison, how can you describe something as good? And, cannot too much of a good thing be bad? Conversely, good needs evil, like light necessitates darkness, to come into being. Therefore, in effect, evil creates good and good begets evil in an endless cycle of relativity. This is a paradox, a mystery the human mind cannot resolve.
Snakes, historically, have embodied evil. Yet we know snakes are crucial to maintaining the ecological balance, as they keep the rodent population in check. A forest fire that burns the habitat of wild animals and scars the earth can also be judged as bad. Yet, scientists tell us that in the long run this is healthy for the forest since fire burns dead vegetation and spurs new growth. You may lose your job and in the short run this can also be seen as negative. However, this may force you to move in a direction you would otherwise not consider and provide you with even greater opportunities for achievement.
To refrain from judging an event, person or circumstances as good or evil is, next to forgiveness, one of the hardest of secrets to learn if you are to succeed in life.
A middle-aged truck driver drove through a suburb looking for a place to eat, when he noticed a youth in a ragged T-shirt running down the pavement with a large bag under his arm. A few metres further back, a plump, middle-aged woman ran frantically after him. Thinking that she had been robbed, the driver slowed his truck to equal the man’s running speed, then at the first cross street, he cut him off, almost hitting the youth.
The young man was startled and stopped running as the driver leapt from his truck. Meanwhile, the woman behind was closing in. Both of them, looking astonished, walked around my truck and boarded the waiting city bus.
Wisdom is the ability to discern hidden truth. The wise achieve success with the knowledge that with the passage of enough time, what is originally labelled “bad: often sows the seed of an equivalent or greater “good.” The secret of success, and the key to excellence, is to view the world not with the eyes of your body but with your spiritual, and judge not between good and evil.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Don’t judge anyone harshly until you yourself have been through his experiences.” According to Mother Teresa, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”