Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Before You Judge Someone: Consider the Missing Pieces

During the winter months we will often start a thousand piece puzzle on a card table in our living room. When Jan’s parents visit, her dad especially enjoys the challenge of working on it. When a puzzle like that is being assembled, you can’t really tell what exactly it is going to depict until a lot of the pieces are in place. And that takes time…




Our lives are like a multiple piece puzzle. There are numerous pieces of our existence that assemble the picture of our life as it looks today. Each piece represents experiences we have had, people we have known, the family we were raised in, jobs we have had and the like. There are also pieces that are symbolic of tragedy, loss and times of despair.


When we get reacquainted with someone after a long period of time, we only know the part of the puzzle of their life that we experienced with them. A lot of pieces have been added during the intervening period. Consequently the puzzle of their life really looks different. In that regard, I have learned something very important in recent months.


Our friends will place the missing pieces of their life puzzle out there for us to observe, if we are willing to listen. Little by little they will reveal their life story to us. Each personal narrative disclosed places another missing piece where it belongs in the puzzle.


Unfortunately most of us tend to jump to conclusions about other people long before the picture has been assembled. The truth is: we don’t even know what the entire picture looks like! We observe a few pieces and automatically assume what that person is really like.


I have been reminded recently to be patient enough to allow all of the puzzle pieces to fall into place. I must listen very carefully and patiently to my friends. They will continue to place the pieces of their lives where they belong, as they share their story. With each placement I learn new things about them. Relationships deepen if we are patient enough to allow the puzzle of people’s lives to come together. And in most cases there are well over 1,000 pieces!  

The truth is:  we create a safe environment for our friends when we acknowledge that the puzzle of their life has many pieces! There is a learning curve here.  Before you judge someone consider the missing pieces.

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