How many things have you ever done in your past that you would prefer to forget?
Have you ever been particularly unkind to someone, whether physically or emotionally? Have you been dishonest in a way you now regret? Perhaps it was something you didn’t do but had promised to. It could even be a pattern of events or a lifestyle from your past that you’re not proud of.
You would be very unusual if there’s not something. Whatever it is, you do not need to define yourself by it. It is not the whole of you or even the essence of you.
Similarly you do not need to define other people by their worst behaviour either and yet as a whole society we have a way of doing that
How do you react when you hear about someone’s misdemeanour? Does it change your whole opinion of them?
Is that how you would want people to think of you if they knew about your worst behaviour? Safe guarding issues aside, is it fair to assess someone and to categorize them according to some of their behaviour without knowing them as a complete person?
As children we are often brought up to categorise people according to whether they are a goodie or a baddie. One of the most challenging learnings as we mature and develop is the recognition that sometimes goodies can do bad things, and vice versa.
Does that mean we should move them over to the other camp and now regard them as baddies or can we isolate that behaviour for what it is?
Whilst I’m certainly not suggesting that we should condone someone’s bad behaviour or behavior that offends our values, perhaps we should think twice before forever defining anyone by it.
Have you ever had these kind of thoughts about someone: ‘I used to really like XXX until I heard they had XXX’d and now I don’t like them.’
Do you think about yourself in the same way, that you’re an inherently bad person because of the way you have behaved or sometimes still do?
Categorising yourself or others according to just one part of their history or persona is closed mindset. Acknowledging that there may be other than positive behaviours or parts of their history is open mindset thinking.
When it comes to your own poor past behaviour, consider whether it’s ongoing or whether it really is in the past. If it is ongoing, or could quite easily reappear, what can you do to address that?
If it’s in the past, how can you re-categorise yourself in a more positive way, according to who you are as a whole person and based on current behaviour? How would someone who doesn’t know about your worst behaviour describe or define you?
Let both your own and other people’s past behaviour be a source of learning and perhaps a key indicator for the future, but remember that it is not the whole picture.
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