A friend of mind recently made a good point that humility and curiosity go together. It takes some humility to admit you don’t already know everything, and not already knowing everything is prerequisite for the curiosity to learn more.
When I look at the natural world, or at a machine, I don’t think: “I know all there is to know about how this plant/animal/object in front of my eyes works.” Yet, somehow an immediate explanation for other people’s behavior jumps into my mind and I tend to run with it straight into whatever emotional upset that hypothesis requires, without ever even noticing that I literally just took a stab in the dark of my own head for their motivation.
Part of my current spiritual practice (by “spiritual” I mean exploring my unconscious motivations) lately has been to notice when I’m making an assumption about the motivations of other people, and then asking myself: “Can I think of any other explanations?” This is a great question to ask to challenge our assumptions in general.
If we asked this question about the ad we just saw, we might not get drawn into whatever assumptions the advertisers want us to hold that will increase the odds we’ll buy their product. (Ad: People are constantly looking at your wrinkles and judging you! Quick, spend your money on this wrinkle cream! Spend hours of your life applying it while looking at yourself in the mirror judging yourself for your wrinkles so that you’ll keep buying wrinkle cream for decades!! OR… just forget your wrinkles, laugh and enjoy your friendships, and assume that no one else is even noticing your facial skin folds!)
If we asked this question about the news we read, we might not get drawn into emotional outbursts over fake news. (OMG!!! A Muslim Scholar Advocated ‘Colonizing’ U.S. and Canada with Sharia Law? We have to kick out all the Muslims!!!! OR… Hmm, I wonder if this is actually true? Let me go to Snopes.com and check. Ah, I see this is a fabricated story designed to sow fear and discord among Americans. So glad I didn’t fall for it.)
If we asked this question about the motivations of the people in our lives, we might have more harmonious relationships. (OMG! He didn’t reply to my text! He hates me. He’s rude. He doesn’t care about me. He only thinks about himself. OR… Maybe he’s really busy, couldn’t think of a response to the text immediately and then got distracted, or didn’t have time to respond immediately and then got side tracked. Maybe I’ll give him a call later tonight and see how he’s doing.)
The key here is to pause, take a deep breath, and not run with the first story (assumption) that occurs to us or is handed to us. Have the humility to consider, it might be wrong! After taking a step back, we can look at this story and wonder with curiosity if it is true, or if there might be other explanations. Before reacting, we can ask ourselves:
What Else is Possible?
Thanks Cherri, for both inspiring this post, and inspiring me to get it published! 😉