Minute #655: House of Cards

Mr. Sokoloff tried to keep busy on his daily train ride to and from work. He caught up on messages, planned agendas and learned Torah. Still, the commute was long and often he would become tired and lose his ability to perform productive tasks. When exhausted, he stared idly into space or checked out his surroundings.

As so many people do, he took note of other passengers sitting opposite him on the train. His active mind created “biographies” of total strangers. “I’ll bet that man is an accountant just by the way he is dressed and the way he is sitting,” he would surmise about one. Or, “That fellow looks very pleasant — like the type I would wish to sit next to at a charity fund-raiser,” he would imagine about another.

One by one he “guessed” the other passengers’ jobs, personalities and other particulars. His assumptions, of course, had no basis in fact but were merely a house of cards lacking a foundation or real substance.

Often people make negative assumptions about another’s motives and opinions. The first words spoken by the other are then wrongly interpreted and arguments ensue. The altercation may become heated and damage may occur before reality takes over and peace is restored.

When a person meets another it’s best to accept the other as “innocent” until proven “guilty.” Assume that people are good and they are able to get along with you even if they might not agree with every “policy position” you hold. Injecting erroneous preconceived notions can only do harm to a potentially beautiful relationship. If you must judge in advance, judge favorably.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Matters leading to sadness fall into two categories: matters that can be corrected and matters that cannot. If something can be done to correct a situation, why feel sad? Take action to correct matters. If, on the other hand, nothing can be done, what gain is there in feeling sad? Sadness will not improve matters. It is wiser to accept what cannot be changed. (Pele Yoetz, “Atzvut”)