(This post originally appeared on April 20, 2009)
Do you ever make snap judgments about people?
Last night I sat on my front porch when a couple of older teenagers came up my walkway trying to selling me something. Magazines, time shares, dreams, the Mormon faith, I don’t remember. After pretending to listen, I explained to them that I don’t buy things solicited at my home. And I explained that, while I would like to help every person hungry enough to knock on doors, I gave to a handful of charities that I’ve been faithful to for years. And then I wished them well.
As they walked away, one of the boys turned back to me and asked with a smile,
“Are you 4/20 friendly?”
Which meant nothing to me. I don’t hear well. And I had NO context for that comment.
The guy who asked that question stood on the sidewalk between my house and the house of my neighbor, so in my confusion, I said, “No, I don’t think so. My address is 718, and she’s 720,” pointing next door.
I know that my response sounded confused. I WAS confused.
The young man laughed at my answer, waved his hand, and turned to a walk away as if to indicate, “It’s okay, crazy old dude. I’m done talking to you.”
Am I What?
Still confused, I went back inside my house and told my teenage daughter about the weird comment the young adult had made to me. Listening from the next room, my teenage son started laughing and said,
“Dad, the kid was asking you if you are cannabis friendly. He thinks you’re a stoner!”
My confusion continued. “Since when does sitting on the front porch make someone a stoner?”
“Maybe it’s your tie-dyed shirt,” my daughter pointed out.
“Are you wearing Birkenstocks, dad?” my son asked from his room.
“And when was the last time you shaved?” my daughter continued.
My son finally joined us in the kitchen, and exploded into laughter when he saw me.
“Dad! You’re wearing a skull cap! Are you sure you’re not a stoner?”
And that is how my kids got grounded for two weeks.
You see, things aren’t always what they appear. The shirt I wore was one I got as a souvenir from Hideaway Pizza in Tulsa when I visited on business. And yeah, I wear and love Birkenstocks like millions of other people do. As far as the skull cap, I wore that to keep my head from getting sunburn, a head normally covered with hair but now smooth because of a St. Baldrick’s event I had taken part in a few days before.
We all make snap-judgments about others when we don’t have the facts, even when those assessments are unkind, unfair, and unaccepting. We’re most likely to make those kinds of judgments when we see others as unkind, unfair, and unaccepting. I can speak from my personal experience, I’m most likely to stand in judgment of others when I feel that others have been unkind, unfair, and unaccepting to me.
Before forming or expressing an opinion about someone-especially a negative one-pause and ask yourself:
- What is the most positive, charitable opinion I can have towards this person right now?
- What are 3 possible, positive reasons that his person is doing what I see him doing?
- How can I extend love, understanding, and acceptance in my words or actions in this moment?
I want to live in a world that’s slow to judge and quick to forgive. And I write this to myself first and foremost, because I know that I’m quick to judge and slow to forgive. But since I have no intention of replacing my tie-dyed shirts, Birkenstocks, or skull caps, I must constantly challenge myself to lead in a way that will make the world better every day of the year, not just on 4/20.
Will you join me today in making 4/20 a day where you will live judgment-free?