Recently I watched the movie Sully (2016) and was reminded of a basic human instinct that we all do – Judge.
If you haven’t watched the movie, I would highly recommend it. It’s based on the true story of Captain Chelsea Sullenberger, a pilot for commercial airline US Airways, on a routine flight from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. In the first few minutes of the flight his plane is struck by a flock of birds, taking out both engines. With no active thrusters and too far from the nearest airport, he is left with no choice but to land the plane wherever he can find. Captain Sully judged that the least impact of casualties in the surrounding city of New York, would be to land the plane in the Hudson river. He executed a controlled landing on the water and miraculously the plane stayed intact and afloat long enough for all passengers on board to survive.
To all of New York City and the public eye he was a hero, however behind the scenes he had to undergo rigorous questioning from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) who found preliminary data that contradicted his reasoning for the abrupt landing. They claimed he had sufficient time to get to the nearest airport, as one engine still had thrusters available to give him enough power. They claimed he had recklessly endangered the lives of all on board US Airways Flight 1549. In the movie, it initially seemed like the officers of the NTSB believed he had pulled off that reckless stunt to gain fame.
In the end, it was proved that he really was a hero and possibly one of few who could have done what he did. It was proved that the engines really were down and that his quick judgement calls and skill had saved the lives of 155 people who may have otherwise died at the hands of another pilot.
This got me thinking about how easy it is to judge someone for their actions, without considering their situation or frame of mind. How easy it is to look on from the outside when all we have is small scraps of information to put together our findings and judge that person on their actions. We come up with reasons that people do these things that fit into the story most convenient to us. We judge with no consideration to whether it is fact or lie.
Last year for my birthday my friends posted to my Facebook page wishing me good wishes. I decided to message every person back to say thank you. Unfortunately, I happened to miss two people that posted on my page. One person was none-the-wiser for being left off my thank you list. The other person not only noticed, but proceeded to criticize me for purposely not saying thank you to them. They told me that I had orchestrated the situation and that I had a secret vendetta against them. They judged me on my mistake. They took what they saw and created their own version of a story.
How often do we do this? How often do we see what people do as selfish reasons? How often do we ignore the good in people and instead put it down to the bad, when we have absolutely no idea what is going on in there head or what situation they are in when they do it. Captain Sully was prejudged before all the conclusive findings. If they never found the evidence, he could have lost his job and lived in humiliation for the rest of his life. All because the board of the NTSB were adamant that they were right and he was wrong, when they weren’t even there to experience what he did.
How does one navigate through this world when we are all prejudged?
How do we make better choices that won’t hurt or offend the people around us or make them think we have done something specifically for a negative reason?
At the end of the day, we can only be the best version we can be and trust in ourselves to do the right thing by others. We have no control over how we will be judged by people, but we can control how we judge them. Specifically… Not judging them. Not allowing our selfish preconceptions to taint the person that they are.
I suggest giving people the benefit of the doubt, or at least not be consumed by the thought that their whole world revolves around us. People do things, sometimes they are bad, sometimes they are good. Sometimes they have everything to do with us, but most often then not, they don’t.
Personally, I try to look for the good in everyone. Maybe that makes me naive or too trusting… But giving people the benefit of the doubt allows that person to step up and be the person they should be. This doesn’t mean you should let someone walk all over you. It means that everyone is already fighting hard enough battles in their life and we don’t need to throw more heat their way.
What is that saying?
Judge not, lest ye be judged…