Friday, February 8, 2008

Defining Moments

The first time I remember feeling the bitter sting of being judged harshly I was eleven years old. We had just moved to a new city. It was my first day at my new school. Grade seven. Because of the move we were a week late for the beginning of classes. I walked into the schoolyard that morning feeling like an outsider.

I stood alone, waiting for the bell to ring inviting us in. Not far from me stood a group of girls. I could feel them looking at me, eyeing me up and down. I wanted to say Hi. I wanted to be part of the group. I wanted to make friends. And then, I overheard one of the girls say to another as she glanced at me. "What a snob."


I remember feeling the sting of those words. I remember thinking, "But you don't even know me."

It was a defining moment.

I'm assistant coaching at Dale Carnegie. Last night was the first session in the twelve week course. As a Group Leader (GL), I was asked to provide an example of a two minute speech on a defining moment from a time when I was a child, 15 or younger.

I'd had some time to think about it. John Fisher, the facilitator, had called me earlier in the day to give me direction. Good thing. There isn't a whole lot of my childhood I remember. And as to defining moments, those points in time where my character was forged on the fires of fortune or misfortune, I hadn't given them a lot of thought in the past.

That's the interesting thing about taking a course like the Dale Carnegie course, they give you a chance to find those moments in time that created value in your present.

For me, that moment was all about judging people and being judged. About making quick judgements based on limited information, without delving beneath the surface to understand who the person is inside.

When I was eleven, I had a choice to make. Let their judgement of me become my truth, or not. I could retreat behind a wall of resentment and attitude, or, I could step out and be known for who I am, not who others perceived me to be.

I stepped out.

That girl who made the comment became one of my very best friends. We are still in contact. Last year she came to Calgary and we spent a four day weekend catching up on thirty years of living. We had a blast.

The defining moment was in understanding the importance of seeking first to understand and to let my judgements be based on people's actions, not on who I perceive them to be on first impressions.

I experience that every day at the homeless shetler where I work. If staff were to judge people on their appearance, their smell, their wealth, or their level of sobriety, we would never be successful in helping people find their way back home. We would never inspire anyone to step beyond the limits of their life today into the possibilities of their lives tomorrow.

Years ago, I experienced the sting of being judged simply because I was an outsider, a new kid in the yard, a pretty girl creating waves in the status quo with her unexpected appearance. In that experience I was given the gift of insight into a value I hold true today.

French author, Honore de Balzac wrote, “The more one judges, the less one loves.”

My happiness comes from loving, not judging. My love comes through being an open, compassionate human being who seeks first to understand, and then to be understood.

And the funny thing is.... The less I judge, the more I am buoyed up with light to live, love, laugh my way through every day!

The question is: Where do you stand in judgement because you fear coming down from your pulpit? Where do your judgements keep you from building bridges of understanding instead of walls of indifference?

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