August 28, 2017

The Next Time you See a Stranger, Remember This.

One of the most fascinating things about people en masse is that each one is living their own separate story.

Our world is filled to the brim with stories, and we are all the protagonists of our own.

The genre can change by the week or by the month or by the minute. Sometimes we are caught in horror stories or tragedies, and our lives are characterized by fear or loss or sadness. Sometimes we are swept up in romantic comedies or inspirational dramas, and we’re the underdog just struggling for recognition, striving to reach that happy ending so we can move on to the next chapter in our lives.

And just like with any well-written story, we are all three-dimensional characters. Every last one of us has a motivation for our actions, a reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. Some of our motivations are better than others. Sometimes we are motivated by fear or anger or bitterness or a plain-and-simple bad mood. But, at the end of day, we all have a motivation, and we all believe that our motivations are good enough to justify the action.

As the protagonists of our own stories, we are all just trying to be heroes. We want to overcome our obstacles, to come out stronger in the end, and make a difference in the world. Sometimes we’ll settle for the role of anti-hero to get what we want, but nobody ever sets out to be a one-dimensional, cut-and-dry villain.

Nobody acts without motivation. Nobody intends to be cruel for the sake of cruelty, not unless they are really and truly hurt as human beings.

Nobody is anything less than a beautifully detailed, genre-shifting, well-told story.

And one thing that really irks me is when people forget all that.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget, and sometimes, I might even go so far as to say it’s necessary. When we have been hurt deeply by someone and forgiveness just isn’t possible quite yet, we might ignore the rest of their story and tell ourselves that they’re simply evil, and that’s all there is to it. This may be the only way a hurt person can deal with a fresh trauma, and I can’t look down on that.

But there are other times we forget—and those aren’t as easily excusable.

I am talking about when we encounter people we do not know, whose stories we have not yet been told, and we dismiss them without even a thought.

I’m talking about seeing a girl in a public space wearing a bikini, and immediately dismissing her as a “dumb sl*t” without even considering any other alternatives. Maybe she was just at the beach? Maybe she is really self-conscious about her body and trying to come to terms with how it looks? Maybe she’s really, really hot? Who knows? And more importantly, who are you to judge?

I’m talking about seeing someone standing too close to something dangerous, and rather than trying to help them, dismissing them as “stupid” and someone who “deserves to be hurt.” But maybe they don’t even know that this is dangerous?

I’m talking about hating someone because of the way their face looks. I’m talking about telling others that you want to punch someone because of something small and trivial that they keep doing, like smiling or looking your way. I’m talking about deciding that someone else is “no good” or “up to something” because they dress a certain way.

I’m talking about judging someone else to be worthless without knowing anything about them.

This dismissal, this ignorance of the nuances of each person’s story, creates such an intense air of negativity. It creates enemies out of people who are just leading their own lives. And I don’t want any part of that.

I’m not saying that all people are good or trustworthy, but all people are people. They have reasons for the things that they do, and we won’t always know their reasons.

We might never find out that the annoying girl who can’t stop crying in public can’t control her panic attack and is at her wit’s end with the story she is leading, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

That doesn’t make her story any less valuable or important.

And it doesn’t better our lives in any way to look down on her for it.


Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Mike Wilson/Unsplash
Editor: Emily Bartran
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Leah Sugerman

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