Has this ever happened to you?
You’re driving on the busy freeway, when suddenly the car in the next lane cuts right in front of you causing you to slam on the brakes and take immediate evasive angle action.
You instantly feel anger rising up within and you gesture furiously – with one finger – towards the offending vehicle while the very words that used to cause your grandmother to threaten to wash your mouth out with soap – pour from your mouth.
Perhaps you even speed up and “ride the bumper” because, as you know, that really teaches the other driver a valuable lesson.
Now, has this ever happened to you? You’re driving down a busy freeway, and your mind is 1,000 miles away, pondering how to bring peace to the planet when you suddenly realize your inattention has caused you to unintentionally drift across into the next lane and you glance in the mirror to see one finger – a middle finger – gesturing towards you and a face contorted in anger with a mouth moving in ways is to suggest that the words are not flattering.
A moment later you become aware that the owner of that mouth has sped up and has positioned his vehicle 1mm from your rear bumper.
You are a bit puzzled by this reaction as it was never your attention to cut in front of him. It happened simply by accident.
My guess is if you have never had both of these experiences the ink on your driver’s license may not yet be dry.
The question is why these two different extremes in your behaviour?
The answer is an easy way – there is a double standard at play here.
This double standard applies to the ways in which we judge others versus the way in which we judge ourselves.
The process works like this: we judge others by their actions – by what they actually say or do. And we judge ourselves by our intentions.
In the above example, when the actions of the driver of the other car placed us in danger, our anger was triggered by his recklessness, thoughtlessness and sheer stupidity.
When we are the offending driver observing rage in our rear-view mirror, we are often surprised by the intensity of this anger as there was never any ill intention on our part and because of this absence of malice, we struggle to understand the wrath we are seeing.
This double standard of judgment crosses over into nearly all areas of our lives, allowing us to view the world through very clear bifocals. One half of each lens allows us to judge others through the wide range of our emotions, while the other half enables us to view ourselves through the narrow view of the purity of our intentions.
This helps explain why we frequently become angered by somebody offering, as their motive for doing what they did, their explanation that “I was only trying to help.”
We humans have often been described as being “rational beings.” In reality, it is perhaps more accurate to describe us as “rationalizing beings.” as we all seem possessed with the unique ability of justifying our every action and wrapping each deed in the comforting blanket of good intention.
Next time you find yourself in full, critical judgment of someone else it may be helpful to your emotional well-being to ask yourself how you would like to be judged in a similar situation.
The answer may surprise you.
Till we read again.