What If They Aren't Who You Think They Are?

As we interact with ourselves, our spouses, our children, our colleagues, our staff, and our friends, we are constantly tempted to decide who people are or create judgments about them. Of course, they don’t seem like judgments but rather accurate assessments based on the facts we see right in front of us, or so we like to tell ourselves. I am learning at this stage in my life that most of my “assessments” are completely off and more about me than about the person I am judging.

My husband and I have been working together for nearly twenty-three years. In the very beginning of our working relationship, I made some judgments about him as I compared his work habits to mine. As I processed his need to take regular breaks throughout the workday, I decided he was not a hard worker. The “he isn’t a hard worker” eventually turned into, "he is lazy." Once that judgment was in place, I constantly worked to prove myself right. I felt like my work ethic was superior to his, and I shamed him for not working as hard as I did. It doesn't feel good to say it now, but it was our reality. 

As the misery in my life reached an unbearable state, I began to question everything I thought I knew, which included my judgments about other people. That was easier said than done as my layer of self-deception was pretty thick. I didn’t want to own the fact that I had limiting beliefs, especially not about the man that I love more than anyone else. The first time my coach asked me, in front of a group of peers, what judgments I had about my husband, I thought for a while and asked if my judgments needed to be bad things. I laugh now as I see how blinded I was to my humanity. Admitting that I believed negative things about him seemed like the characteristic of a "bad wife," so I would rather have acted as though the judgments weren't there. Yet, as I got over myself, I realized I had many judgments about him, including those about his work habits.

Once I brought this dirty little secret out into the open, I could investigate whether it was true or not. Immediately, memories of the past flooded into my mind about his seemingly endless tea breaks, short TV interludes, and the times he took a nap during work hours. On and on, my laundry list of “facts” piled up as I built my case to prove myself right once again. Once those were recognized, I set them aside and considered what else might be possible.

It is interesting how the natural world offers its helping hand when I get curious. Out of nowhere, conversations began to emerge that offered me some different perspectives. I heard about a study in which scientists have proven that taking a break once an hour greatly increases productivity. I also learned this from another resource: Power naps...can also boost our brains, including improvements in creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, objective learning, and statistical learning.

It turns out my husband wasn’t lazy, at all, but knew a whole lot more than I did about how to maximize his productivity. Who knew?!?

I think about the arguments, shame, and separation I created in our relationship as a result of my judgment. Thankfully, I have repented, and he has forgiven me. The lessons I continue to learn through this experience are life-altering.

As humans, it is so easy to decide what is true about other people and lock them into being that. The more I shamed him for “being lazy,” the less productive he got in his work. However, once I interrupted my judgment and realized the opposite was true, we both started getting curious about who he was if he wasn’t lazy. I started seeing him show up in ways I had never seen before. The work he began producing reached an all-time high.

It is amazing what is possible when I let him take responsibility for himself.

I am learning that making comparisons and judging people are two of the greatest enemies of experiencing the life I long for. By choosing to live in curiosity and recognize that, as much as I am changing and daily becoming who I am, so is everyone else around me.

Giving people the freedom to live in their truth about themselves, rather than feeling they have to fight against mine, is transforming my world.

Living in the mystery of who people are, rather than holding onto my rigid assessments of who I think they are, is bringing huge adventure to each relationship. My days are so much more fun and exciting.

I invite you to consider today how your “knowing” of who the people around you are is getting in the way of what you long for. If they weren’t who you think they are, who else might they be? I would love for you to share your discoveries in the comments below.