I’m always fascinated by people who think there are mostly “black and white” answers in life. It’s almost as if the circumstances don’t matter. Rather than trying to fully understand the external and internal dynamics of a situation, they prefer to overlay simple explanations for why things do or don’t happen, e.g., “people who don’t work like they do are lazy” or “government is always the obstacle not the answer”, or “everyone should believe in God the way I do or don’t” etc. There is this brazen confidence in their own point of view and life experience, to the extent that this background is sufficient for navigating the all the intricacies of life and problems of others.
The problem is that life is complex not simple. There are many reasons why things do or do not happen. At some point we all are faced with difficult choices with no clear answers. We all also ultimately have to live with the consequences of our actions and decisions, which most often are made with imperfect information or unclear guidelines. Life does just happen sometimes and navigating it and can as much of an art as a science. Moreover, we don’t live in isolation from our fellow human beings and regularly have to respond to the needs, motivations and actions of family members, friends, colleagues and even strangers. It can get fairly complicated…
I’m not saying there aren’t simple answers to some questions or that a person’s values and beliefs can’t be a grounding force in their life and decision making. However, we could all use some more empathy and understanding at times. Rather than rushing to judgment, try and step back and strive to better understand the situation. People have many reasons why they do or don’t do certain things. What from the outside looks one way, from the inside might be perceived differently. It’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s not okay to create shortcuts or simple explanations where none exist.
The Native Americans have a great saying: “Don’t judge your neighbor until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Sadly, wisdom often requires the gaining of humility through humbling experiences. We are all on a journey. What that journey means is open to interpretation. Instead of always seeking simplicity, embrace complexity. Do your best to learn from it and grow through your experiences. I urge you to become more aware and reflective of what is happening around and to you. Life is mostly gray, not black and white.