To know people’s backgrounds means to know what’s on their back and what’s under their ground
If we see someone walking with drooped shoulders, we might judge them as lethargic – till we notice that they are carrying a huge burden that isn’t easily noticeable because it is of the same color as the background. Similarly, if we find someone being too pessimistic, we may understand them better if we come to know that they are facing a huge crisis, that is, they are carrying an invisible mental burden.
Conversely, if we see someone repeatedly falling down, we may be tempted to laugh at them till we notice that the floor on which they are walking is dangerously slippery. For all of us, our upbringing and the impressions we get thereby are like the inner emotional ground on which we exist. If someone has had a terrible past, those impressions may have made them psychologically scarred – and that may shape their behavior for many years to come.
Thus, knowing people’s background means understanding what is on their back, what burden they are carrying, and what is under their ground, what impressions have formed the foundation of their self-conception.
Godly people want to understand others’ background so that they can empathize better, not judge more. Indeed, the Bhagavad-gita (16.02) states that godly people are averse to finding faults. Their primary concern is to help others, to serve them in their service to God, Krishna. Though we all have a tendency to find faults, we can counter that tendency when we understand philosophically that everyone is essentially a soul like us but is differently influenced by what’s on their back and what’s under their ground.
Though people’s background doesn’t excuse their actions, it often explains those actions – and equips us to respond to them with a more informed empathic mood of service.
Think it over:
Has understanding the burden someone is carrying changed your attitude toward them?
Has understanding someone’s upbringing helped you better understand how they are now?
Identify what you could do in any one important relationship to replace the tendency to judge with the tendency to understand.
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