In this month's blog I am highlighting this trap through sharing an experience which made it clear to me how easy it is to judge too quickly.
"I was driving along a busy road towards a small market town on a shopping trip. Suddenly the car I was following slowed down and eventually came to a halt and I could see that the car in front of that had also stopped. I was puzzled as the traffic was proceeding as normal in the other direction. We were stationary for some minutes and then a woman appeared on the nearside, opposite the first parked car and I saw that she was carrying a puppy. She proceeded to scramble down quite a steep bank, dropped the puppy at the bottom of the bank, climbed up again, got into her car and drove away. I was absolutely incensed!! I had heard that people dumped unwanted animals but to actually witness it happening was very upsetting. By this time, quite a queue had formed behind me and people were getting impatient!! We all moved off and, almost immediately, the woman who had dumped the puppy turned off the main road into a country lane. I was very tempted to follow her but obviously had no idea where she might be going, whether I could catch up with her at all or, if I did, what exactly I would do. So I just carried on driving, seething with indignation about what I had just seen and wondered if there was a local police station where I could report the incident ( this was before I owned a mobile phone). I was still following the same car as we drove into the town. The lady driver then pulled into a parking space and it just so happened that there was another empty space adjacent to this so I parked beside her. We opened our car doors at almost the same time and I was so cross that I decided to speak to the lady who emerged. "Did you see that woman who dumped the puppy?" I asked angrily. "Is that what you thought?" she replied. "She wasn't dumping it at all. The little dog was running round in the road, so she stopped to pick it up and take it down the bank to where the house was, as she thought it had probably escaped from there and would be safer".
I was mortified and very ashamed. What I had thought of as an act of extreme cruelty was, in actual fact, the opposite. The woman I had thought of so negatively as I drove the few more miles into the town had stopped her car to rescue the puppy, climbed down a steep bank to put it out of harm's way and, had risked the wrath of a queue of other drivers who wouldn't have known why she was holding up the traffic or might have jumped to the same conclusion as I did.
You can imagine how I felt. not only that but, if the driver of the other car had not parked beside me, I would have gone on thinking how cruel the other woman was and would probably have repeated the story many times. Also, if I had reported what had happened, I could have set into motion a train of events that would undoubtedly had caused a lot of problems. I had made a huge assumption and my judgement was totally flawed - because it was based on what I saw whereas I didn't see what was the reality."
So how can we be absolutely sure that we know all the facts of a situation, enough to make a judgement? How can we possibly know what is in a person's mind and therefore presume their motivations and intentions?
I wish that I could say that I will never again be judgemental about something or someone but none of us are perfect. However this experience has made me so much more aware of how easy it is to jump to conclusions.