Always Assume You Don't Know The Whole Story

Always Assume You Don't Know The Whole Story

This week’s Monday Motivation comes from something that’s been on my mind a lot lately and something that seems to continue coming up in conversation with close friends. Recently in intimate conversations with various friends about death and breakups and cancer and divorce and being laid off and suicide, another topic has surfaced in almost all of them: how much people think they know about said topic and how mistaken they really are. And it’s begun to echo in my mind even more than before that we should always assume we don’t know the whole story. Period. End of story. In the news, the latest gossip, even when you are deeply wronged by someone. There is always more that we don’t know and probably can’t. A bias in reporting, projection of others’ fears and insecurities sprinkled in when they relay information from one person to another, and even in the latter – when you are hurt or wronged. Others’ rejection, slander and hurt are always rooted in something deeper than just the situation at hand. Hurt people, hurt people.

The point is it is simply impossible to know the whole story about anyone’s story but our own. How each of us to yearn for people to really know the story about us before they decide who or what we are. Last night I went to see Sully, the true story of the miraculous landing on the Hudson. Side-note: if you just need to feel good about humans again, go see this movie. It’s incredibly inspiring and uplifting. Beyond that, it poignantly displays an example of others’ certainty about a situation that isn’t certain at all. Tom Hanks who plays Captain Sully is consistently questioned, even accused by the ATSB (Aviation Transportation Safety Board), that he could have returned to La Guardia and that landing on the water was the wrong decision, endangering hundreds and costing millions. Even multiple computer simulations performed said he, in fact, made the wrong decision and could have made it to the closest nearby runway. I won’t spoil the ending but suffice it to say, even experts and computers were wrong. They didn’t have all the information. It didn’t happen to them. They weren’t there. 

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When I think about my observation of others: stories I hear, things I think I know about the family down the street or why my friends have the quirks they do or why a family member is the way they are, the much higher probability is that I can observe only a fraction of the reality of that situation, that person’s own journey, heart and path. I can’t truly know why that man left his wife or why that kid is so angry or why that family never seems to have enough money. It is beyond my understanding why someone lost their job or why that cute couple doesn’t have any kids. I can think I know what I’m told and what I observe, both of which merely scratch the surface of what might really be going on. It leads me to wonder why we all need to know so much about others. Perhaps others’ struggles make us feel like we’re doing ok and offer a brief reprieve from what’s really going on in our own lives.

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It seems it would be kind of revolutionary if we could all find a way to practice this. I for one am challenging myself to really assume, that no matter what I’ve heard or what limited amount of information I may even be able to observe about a situation with my own eyes, that there is always more. And that ultimately more information actually isn’t the point either. Kindness is. May we always assume we don’t know the whole story. And just be kind. Maybe it’s that simple.

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