“For me context is the key — from that comes the understanding of everything.” — Kenneth Noland
I was standing in line at the store when I suddenly heard a woman start yelling at the cashier.
I took one look at her and wondered whether the cashier did something really bad or if the woman’s an asshole.
After about 5 seconds my mind was made up. The woman was indeed an asshole.
The berating continued for about 30 seconds more before the cashier calmly asked: “Do you feel better?”
Then something weird happened. The woman started sobbing and I realized just how judgemental I’d been.
The cashier probably realized that the woman wasn’t really screaming at her. Her issues were with other things and the fact that this thing, whatever it was, upset her was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
See, that was just one moment in time. I hadn’t seen what she’d gone through that day. I don’t even know what happened one minute earlier.
Just because someone acts in a certain way in one situation doesn’t mean they act like that in all situations. Perhaps it’s even “once in a blue moon”.
Is that really enough for us to form a proper picture of the person?
Let’s say all you ever saw a person do was to post paintings like these on Instagram:
What would your perception of that person be? That they’re creative? Organized? Quiet? Antisocial, narcissistic, paranoid, and sadistic?
Or should we perhaps just accept that we have far too little information to go on to make any assumptions.
No single snapshot in time can give us the complete picture of a person.
However, we shouldn’t ignore the things people do either.
Despite the cashier’s understanding the woman still has to be held accountable for her actions.
It could very well be an indicator that she has poor impulse control or that she’s unstable in other ways.
While jumping to conclusions can be harmful, ignoring the signs could be even more harmful.
Hang around someone for long enough and you’ll see their best sides, and their worst sides.
So, who was the painter?
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