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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Benefit of the Doubt

Some people say you can’t change, but I disagree.
I think there are two ways to change.
I think it’s possible to change by working on yourself, slowly and steadily.  I’m a great believer in the neuroplasticity of our brains and their ability for us to re-condition learned behavior.  I didn’t say it’s easy, just possible.
I also believe in “aha” moments that change us.  I believe in them because I’ve had them and they did profoundly and permanently change me.  Well, my experiences themselves weren't profound; I merely mean they really had an effect on me and since I think change is NOT the path of least resistance, I’m impressed when it happens.
One “aha” moment that made a permanent change in me was very much like an anecdote I read in Reader’s Digest when I was about twelve years old.  In the story, a man was riding a public transportation bus and his two kids were being kind of wild and disruptive.  Another passenger snapped at the man saying something like, “Can’t you keep control of your kids?  They’re driving everyone nuts!”  The man  looked startled and almost bewildered, like he was coming out of a dream as he began to apologize to the other man and the nearby passengers.   “I’m so sorry, “he said.  “We’ve just come from the hospital.  Their mother just died and I guess I don’t really know how to handle the situation yet.  Again, my apologies.”  Needless to say, the complaining man felt a little… small… and ashamed… and suddenly felt great empathy for the widower and his sons.
Although it's something that really happened, it didn't happen TO ME and I think EXPERIENCING an event has more impact than reading about someone else's event. My own, less dramatic story, did.
I went to pick up my four-year old son from day care one day and I could hear commotion in the next room.  It was one of the baby/toddlers and she was fussing at Gabe, I could tell.  As I rounded the corner I was already chastising him.  “Gabe!  What are you doing to Sophie!  You’d better come here this instant.”
He did come, a few seconds later, and said, “Sophie was crawling up the stairs and she’s not allowed to so I held her back and she didn’t like that.”
Oh my gosh, I was mortified.  I’d yelled at my son for trying to protect a baby from harm.  Gah!  What kind of mother am I?!
But it served as a wake up call to try to remember that I don’t ever know what’s going on in someone’s head or life.  Actions and behavior, even words, may not always be what they appear to be, so I try not to snap to judgment or assume I always know what’s going on, and I try give people and situations the benefit of the doubt.


  1. Very well said, Laura! Often one doesn't think about changing their paradigm, because straight shots to your conclusion typically come on so strong. Once this paradigm shift happens to you - even once, like your reaction to your son's behavior, you're so much more "aware" that there's often a backstory. Lucky you that you discovered this some time ago! Too bad 'awareness' doesn't make us perfect in this regard. Thanks for sharing your insight:)

    1. Thanks for your comment! The thing for me to work on is trying to keep this "observation" at the forefront of my brain. :-)