I have heard a phrase “look for the good in everyone.” That’s probably not a bad thing. I am not advocating against that but I am going to suggest that it’s not enough and sometimes not effective. What if you search for the good in someone and can’t find it? It is possible that is a result of there not being any, or that your own personal bias is blinding you. Either way, you will have come to a standstill when you reach that point.
My suggestion is not to look for the good, but to look for the pain. This is not necessarily easier to find but I guarantee you that it is there. We all have pain – every single person who ever walked this earth has carried pain.
When I can not understand someone -what they did, what they said or how they are thinking, I look for their pain. Pain is a huge motivator so it is a likelihood that it could be a reason for behaviors and beliefs. Even if it is not the explanation for one event you were searching for answers for, it can still change the way you think about that person. When you know the pain another person carries, it gives you the opportunity to have empathy. You can chose to seize that opportunity or you can pass it by. Letting it go is your loss, not theirs. You can’t physically walk a mile in another persons shoes but you can begin to understand why their shoes are so ragged.
The catch – because there is almost always a catch, is that in order to know someones pain you need to get to know them. It means you have to lay down any offense you currently hold, you have to be willing to step closer to that person who may have hurt you. You may need to to this either physically so you can talk, but definitely emotionally and that is a high risk endeavor. In most cases they need to tell you their story. Sometimes you can learn things about someone from another person but that is not the best way. You need to be careful that you are not inciting gossip or talking behind someone’s back, so again the very best thing is to go to the person directly. This is very challenging when there has been an offense and you are hurting but if you really want healing and possibly restoration then you go to that person directly, and if they are willing to share their story you can find out what caused the pain that they carry.
You will always be able to relate to each other – not because your stories are identical, but because pain has one face and it hurts.