She sang, as requested. There was much about love in the ballad: faithful love that refused to abandon its object; love that disaster could not shake; love that, in calamity, waxed fonder, in poverty clung closer. The words were set to a fine old air–in themselves they were simple and sweet: perhaps, when read, they wanted force; when well sung, they wanted nothing. Shirley sang them well: she breathed into the feeling, softness, she poured round the passion, force: her voice was fine that evening; its expression dramatic: she impressed all, and charmed one.
On leaving the instrument, she went to the fire, and sat down on a seat — semi-stool, semi-cushion: the ladies were round her — none of them spoke. The Misses Sympson and the Misses Nunnely looked upon her, as quiet poultry might look on an egret, an ibis, or any other strange fowl. What made her sing so? They never sang so. Was it proper to sing with such expression, with such originality — so unlike a school girl? Decidedly not: it was strange, it was unusual. What was strange must be wrong; what was unusual must be improper. Shirley was judged.
Sometimes it’s easier to give compassion to those whose troubles fell upon them undeserved. But those who’ve, from our perspective, tangled themselves up all on their own—they need compassion every bit as much. You who are without sin, cast the first stone… No one did. Because you can’t grasp a stone while keeping a grip on grace. One or the other must stay on the ground.
Going easy on ourselves also reflects a key cognitive fact: we judge ourselves by our internal motives and everyone else by their external actions. And thus, in considering our own misdeeds, we have more access to mitigating situational information. This is straight out of Us/Them–when Thems do something wrong, it’s because they’re simply rotten; when Us-es do it, it’s because of an extenuating circumstance and “Me” is the most focal Us there is, coming with the most insight into internal state. Thus, on this cognitive level, there is no inconsistency or hypocrisy and we might readily perceive a wrong to be mitigated by internal motives in the case of anyone’s misdeeds. It’s just easier to know those motives when we are the perpetrator.
The adverse consequences of this are wide and deep. Moreover, the pull towards judging yourself less harshly than others easily resists the rationality of deterrence. As Ariely writes in his book, “Overall, cheating is not limited by risk; it is limited by our ability to rationalize the cheating to ourselves”.
―Robert Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst
To think better, to think like the best humans, we are probably going to have to learn again to judge a person’s intelligence, not by the ability to recite facts, but by the good order or harmoniousness of his or her surroundings. We must suspect that any statistical justification of ugliness and violence is a revelation of stupidity.
―Wendell Berry, “People, Land, and Community”, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
I’m afraid of time… I mean, I’m afraid of not having enough time. Not enough time to understand people, how they really are, or to be understood myself. I’m afraid of the quick judgements or mistakes everybody makes. You can’t fix them without time. I’m afraid of seeing snapshots, not movies.
Now, to return to my subject, I find that there is nothing barbarous and savage in this nation, by anything that I can gather, excepting, that every one gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use in his own country. As, indeed, we have no other level of truth and reason, than the example and idea of the opinions and customs of the place wherein we live: there is always the perfect religion, there the perfect government, there the most exact and accomplished usage of all things.
I feel as though, if I were to extend my hand just a little toward the pool where the ideas ferment, I could grab at the idea and pull it out of the pool and onto the floor where ideas must stand before the jury of the brain. There, it must present itself, still from the pool, and a bit shivery because new ideas are not given a towel to dry off with, towels being reserved for proven theories; new ideas are simply pulled and stood up, and asked to explain themselves – not a very pleasant thing really, which is why so many people go into the room where the pool is.
I Feel like a prison holding myself, bounded by the judgements of people I care [about] and chained by the rules of the society I live in. If I would let the person who speaks inside me out, he would tell you a different story than what you have seen all these years. Sometimes I see myself crying, screaming and trying to tear myself into pieces when I stand in front of the mirror so that I could finally be free from myself. But the demon I have created inside me to guard [me] beats me down and laughs at me, watching me bleed.