bigger picture


Some years back, I sat in a matatu (public van) next to a lady and a young man who seemed to be her son. He looked fresh in school, most probably a mono. Monos are usually pretty easy to point out in the crowd you know 😀 . So anyway, this lady seemed really agitated about something her son had done. They had some crispy-looking tuskys bags; seemed like they were from shopping. It was the beginning of a new term so it wasn’t really a surprise. This lady kept on ranting, in a strained yet low tone. She was really struggling to control her rage so she doesn’t end up shouting at him. From the complaining, it seemed like the son had given out some school stuff to some friends or so. The young boy sat quietly as the mother continuously pushed him and slapped him on his head. It was quite a private confrontation, none would have noticed apart from us who were right next to them. I felt a bit sad for the boy; his head lowered and his eyes watery. When you think of this scenario, and if you judge only from this event, one could easily jump into conclusion that this was a harsh mother or a bad mother or a mother who simply doesn’t realize that a high school boy is already a grown man. And perhaps, if you met another mother hugging her form one boy before he leaves to boarding school, you’d say, ‘aww, that’s a loving mother’ but perhaps that is the only time she ever hugs him?

I remember looking at the rage on this woman’s face and thinking of many possibilities that made her angry at this moment. Perhaps she was a poor lady barely able to make the needs meet. Perhaps she’s a single mother who carries this burden of raising a young man alone. Perhaps her son has been doing this repeatedly. Perhaps she had to sacrifice getting medication just to provide for his school needs. On the other hand, what if the son was being bullied at school? Maybe he was trying to fit in so he decides saying ‘no’ is not an option? Perhaps he was helping a more needy mate? I mean, who knows what’s the real story apart from the two themselves? We could play and replay a hundred conclusions on this one scenario. Hell, we could even make a whole book or a movie out of this, but we can never know the truth. They all remain to be conclusions and sometimes, they are just irrational or improper.

However much of a genius you are, you can never know what struggle someone is going through unless they decide to let you know. You can never know why they do what they do. Or what sacrifices they had to make to be where they are or be the way they are. I mean, if you saw a teenager into drugs, why would you be so fast to blame the parents? What if the parents are the ones most affected by their child’s behaviour? That baby making tantrums in the airport or supermarket may not be because the parents raised them the wrong way. Sometimes, its just out of anyone’s control. Sometimes these are just tests for the people involved. Sometimes this is NOT the whole story. Just because you saw someone scolding their baby sister, doesn’t mean they love them any less. It doesn’t mean they are bullying them. It just means, you have NO IDEA on how their lives are entirely. Perhaps she scolds her but still plays with her afterwards? I mean really, who are we to judge? Who are we to declare people harsh, bad, evil, rude, just because we met them a couple of times? Or even the other way round; declaring someone to be kind, loving, caring based on one or two events. It’s ridiculous. It is like judging a movie based on the trailer. Well maybe the trailer does give you an impression of what the movies is about, but it doesn’t give you the whole story right? You don’t know what went on behind the scenes. What happened until it got to be where it is. It doesn’t give you the whole picture…the bigger picture…

When you interact with people, always remember that whatever judgment you came up with about this one person, it could have ten, twenty other explanations. You are not God to decide which explanation explains what the person said or did best. Only they know best. Only they and God. Everyone has a story. It may not be pretty and maybe your judgment is correct after all, you still can never understand how they struggle with the situation. Not unless you want to help or support or guide or be there for a person, it is always better to keep your judgments to yourself.

Remember, there is ALWAYS A BIGGER PICTURE.

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