Have you ever heard the saying, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.”?
Metaphor aside, as a handyman, you pull together a set of tools. You expand as you take on new jobs and find a need for new tools. But at some point you have a lot of tools and you start to think, “I’ve got this”. Sometimes it’s because the toolbox gets full. Sometimes it’s because the specialized tools are too expensive. But you can reach a point where you just make things work with what you have.
Back to the metaphor, when solving problems we develop a certain set of skills, and we tend to apply those solutions to every problems we come across. We treat every problem like it’s a nail, when all we have is a hammer.
We run into the same problem when we’re trying to judge another person.
We are contrast machines, we establish a baseline of behavior, appearance, character, and then look for differences by viewing the contrast between the known (our baseline) and the new (the person you just met). When the only measuring stick is ‘you’, you tend to measure everyone against yourself. For example, I think that everyone should be more or less one Kevin tall, anything else is just too tall, or too short.
There are really 3 primary groups when you look at judgement:
The average person would fall into the personal measuring stick, where everyone is judged against themselves. Where likeness is found it is considered normal and difference are considered abnormalities or failings of the person being reviewed. The reviewer is the baseline, the measuring stick, and the person under review is considered outside of acceptable bounds.
Closed minded people can have a twisted standard. Instead of judging against baseline, or against themselves, they judge against who they think they are, or who they think they should be. Essentially you’re being judged against a standard that they don’t even live up to. Their illusion leads to a judgement of failure on your part. Oddly with this mindset this illusion also leads to dissatisfaction with themselves.
Open minded people can expand this to allow for variations within a control group. Instead of just judging new people against themselves, solely, they judge within a group of people they consider as “within acceptable parameters”. The grace and success of this method is dependent upon the size of the group you have allowed in to be “Acceptable”. This can be a good means of judgement but it’s fallible when you run into a person outside of your accepted experiences.
Now the goal, as I see it, is to be in a 4th category, let’s call this the “Really Open Minded” group. This is the group that looks at someone and accepts them as they are. There is no judgement of value based on what they can do and cannot do. There is no consideration of lesser or greater. There is only awe at the person in front of them. A sense of wonder that you even got to interact with a person so unique and amazing.
I have been learning more about myself recently through the mirror of my kids. It turns out I’m not quite the person I thought I was. It doesn’t make me a bad person, it doesn’t make me a good person, I’m still just a person. I’m reminded of the scene from the matrix where the bad guy snort derisively at Neo during a fight “Only Human”. I snorted that derisively at myself this morning during a moment of abject humanity.
I am “only human”. I am also “delightfully human”.
The me that I am, and the me that I believe I should be, are still only a fraction of the spectrum of all that humanity has to offer. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. All is acceptable because we are all made perfectly as we are meant to be.