Recently, I heard a story about a police officer working in a difficult environment — a poverty-stricken, inner city area.
Someone approached him and said, “I bet you have to work with some really challenging people.”
The police officer’s response surprised me. He said, “Most of the time, I deal with good people on their worst day.”
His response challenged me and caused me to consider the way I view the people around me. This police officer believes that he is working with good people that have bad days and that make poor decisions. The fact that he views them as good people affects the way he does his job and affects the way he thinks about his responsibility to protect this community.
Once you create a narrative about a person, it changes the way you treat them and the things you think about them. She’s always negative. He’s naive. She’s selfish. He’s arrogant. It’s easy to put people in boxes, and once you’ve placed them in a box, it feels impossible to pull them out. Personally, it’s difficult for me to change my expectations for a person after they are established, and often, I don’t treat them the way I should.
We all have this problem, don’t we? So, how do we fix it? How do we change the way we think about the people around us? Let’s take a moment to open our eyes and consider that every life has a story.
The woman who called you at work to complain about the product you sold her finalized her divorce today.
Your employee was late to work three days this week because he is getting his little brother ready for school. His mom is gone again.
Your child’s teacher seems less than excited about your phone call, but you don’t know that her husband just told her that he lost his job.
It feels like your coworker can’t get any of his projects done this week, giving you extra work to do. His wife just had a baby, and he’s running on little to no sleep.
Your pastor’s wife never seems available to help serve in the church nursery or cook meals for weekly dinners anymore. She just found out her mom is sick and travels three days a week to care for her.
The actions of these individuals can seem frustrating, but now that we know their stories, they make sense. They give us sympathy and force us to look beyond ourselves and our needs to the needs of others.
Zig Ziglar said it best: “The way you see people is the way you treat them.”
It’s that simple.
How you do see the people around you? Ask yourself this question this week and see if it changes the way you treat the people in your community.