There is a story of a young adult male who was riding a train for what seemed like the first time. He appeared to be astounded by the experience and repeatedly commented to his father about how the trees were moving away from the train and the clouds were moving ahead of it. He did not seem to realize that it was the train (and therefore himself) that was actually moving.
A couple sitting next to the boy and his father watched for time, and eventually suggested to the father that he take the young man to a doctor. The father stated, “I just did, and we are on the way home from the hospital where my son received a new set of eyes. This is the first time he has ever seen in his 24 years of life.”
How often do we misjudge and arrive at erroneous conclusions due to a haughty sense of self-righteousness and flawless perception? How many stories like the one above could be told about each one of us, if every judgment and assumption were permitted to “play out” to a reveal?
I believe I have written before about a concept known as the “introspection error,” in which human beings tend to believe that their perception of time, place, people, and events are the most accurate and reliable. This phenomenon is depicted well within the movie Inception where the characters would utilize an object to “reality test” and determine if they were awake or dreaming.
The “token” that I would like to propose that we all learn to utilize in determining the accuracy of our assumptions and judgments is a practice known as Appreciative Inquiry.
Feel free to Google the term in order to learn about its origin, development, and application. For our purpose here I would like to consider the following “working definition”:
“A process of withholding conclusions about a phenomenon in favor of taking the time and making the effort to dig deeper into its more subtle nuances and essences so as to stand a greater chance of understanding said phenomenon in its most authentic and truest form.”
To accomplish this try the following:
Adopt a mindset of withholding judgments. Simply allow yourself to view and experience things as they are, without tainting them with your own projections and/or prejudices. When you find yourself not doing so well with this, offer yourself counter-hypothesis that could also be true:
Perhaps that homeless person actually holds a PhD and lost all his money due to a family tragedy?
Maybe that tattooed and pierced girl is an abuse survivor who is trying to gain back the autonomy that was stolen from her?
What if my feelings towards that guy with the Rolex and Hugo Boss suit actually stem from my own jealousy and envy?
These are just a few examples, and if we are all honest with ourselves we might find that we do a lot more judging and assuming than we would care to admit. May we learn to avoid such errors by offering love and the “benefit of the doubt” to others.
You may find that the more you practice appreciative inquiry as a counter-measure, you may also begin to apply it naturally in all areas of your life. An open heart and mind is available to experience life on an entirely new and beautiful level. Rather than see the weeds, you will focus upon the gorgeous flowers. Instead of the mole on the forehead, you will see the beautiful soul that lies within. An accused criminal could actually be quite innocent.
May our lives be blessed with the gift of appreciative inquiry as we learn to “dig deep” into the experiences life grants us. May we therefore come to embrace the positive aspects of each and every situation, thereby granting ourselves every opportunity to savor the essences of all that matters most.