A young couple moved into a new neighbourhood. The next morning while eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbour through the window hanging the wash outside.
“That laundry is not clean,” she said. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap”.
Her husband looked on, but remained silent.
Every time the neighbour would hang laundry to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.
About one month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband,
“Look, she has learnt how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this!”
The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.” – from message.snopes.com
And so it is with life.
What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look. We see people as we are.
It is pretty easy to discuss other people, their lives and things that don’t really concern us – yet we tend to forget that our window isn’t that clean after all.
I got a call from a close friend who mentioned that she ran into a young man who knew me when we were at the University. He asked after me and shared something which had intrigued him. He said when we had worked together on the departmental student body association, I had gotten upset when he complimented me on my looks.
Now, I cannot even remember who he is, neither can I remember the incident; but I do find my reaction a tad weird. While I sincerely loathe when men cannot look beyond a pretty face but what happened to graciousness; witty wisecrack; skilful change of topic or even pretending I did not hear him? Anyway, maybe he was annoying when he said it but now, I know I would have done things differently.
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I had a couple of clashes with people (who didn’t?) because I was pretty headstrong and
opinionated; saw things in only black and white. May be I still am but I’ve begun to learn how important manners, tact and speech (or silence) can be. I also understand that there are a good many shades of grey and find myself making excuses for people and trying to understand their points of view. Alhamdulillah, I have a better relationship with many people I did not get on well with in the near past by realising my opinions are not always right and people correcting me are not necessarily ‘beefing’ me.
Of course, not everyone has valid criticisms but if we listen well enough, we should be able to discern constructive criticism from judgmental statements with malicious intent. On the other hand, we should not shy away from asking perceptive and intelligent people for advice and for their insight while prepared for the sting of feedback. We need to stop viewing all criticisms with suspicion. It takes guts to do that but we often become better for it.
So, you see? We really ought to get up and clean our windows more frequently and be open to accepting that the problem is not always them; sometimes, it is us.