Recently, I have been fascinated by something that I read, something that points to a common fallacy that we easily fall into but also something that few of us are willing to admit.
Author Stephen Covey describes this type of thinking this way, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviours.”
It goes something like this: “When you do something bad, your behaviour is a clear evidence that you are a bad person. But when I do something bad, it’s just an honest mistake, an exception. It is my intention that counts. I am at the core still a good person.”
This kind of thinking is easily found in the public space, in the corporate office, or even at home between family members!
In one of His famous teachings, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
Well, perhaps focusing on the sawdust in your eye distracts me from the pain of the plank in my own eye.
So, how can we learn to be less biased?
In my counselling sessions with couples, I often suggest for them to approach conflicts with the following “observation questions”. (You may replace the word “honey” with the name of a person you are dealing with.)
“Honey, something happened the other day that bothered me. I don’t want to misunderstand you. May I talk to you about this?”
“When that happened, I felt hurt, I felt like …”
“I don’t think you meant it, but can you help me understand…”
Well, this is just an example, and it may not work in your situation. But the point here is to
- Hold your judgement for now, and
- Seek understanding.
As James the half brother of Jesus said, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Seeking to understand is perhaps a good beginning to acquire wisdom and develop relationships that are meaningful!