April Jeppson: Choose understanding instead of judgement

Published 8:45 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

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Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

Sitting in a meeting this week and someone brings up the power of gratitude. They encouraged everyone in attendance to share something good that’s happened to them recently. The answers varied greatly from person to person. One gentleman was looking forward to a nice long visit with his grandchildren, and another was pleased that a difficult employee turned in their notice.

April Jeppson

It was fun getting a small glimpse into everyone’s lives. Although I’ve known some of these people for years, it’s surprising how little I actually know about most of them. The entire process couldn’t have taken more than five minutes, but it truly set the stage for a more enjoyable meeting. By the time our roundtable sharing was over, the entire room felt a bit lighter.

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When you receive poor service at a restaurant, it’s easy to get frustrated with the waiter or kitchen staff. I can be a very patient person until I’m really hungry. So if I’ve been waiting a long time for my food to arrive, or if our water glasses are never refilled … I get frustrated. I’ve personally never yelled at or even raised my voice at anyone in customer service, but I’ve witnessed others do it countless times.

My mind naturally gives my service person the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they didn’t get enough sleep or are fighting off a cold. Maybe they got in a fight with their spouse or are going through some unexpected financial troubles. I’ve seen the change in a person’s attitude when they are dealing with the weight of their loved one fighting cancer. Any number of things can cause a stellar employee to receive a one-star review.

Once I consider the possibilities, I’m able to put myself in their shoes. The story I create in my mind is usually something like this:

“I’m having a horrible day, but I’m not able to leave work, so I need to power through. Sam didn’t show up to work again, so now we’re short staffed in the kitchen, and I keep forgetting to refill the drinks at Table 4. I’m trying my best, but my best just isn’t cutting it today …”

So when my waiter finally refills our drinks, I smile and stay polite. I can usually read their disappointment or stress all over their face anyway; they don’t need me to tell them what they already know. They need my kindness and understanding. They need me to extend them grace. At least that’s what I would want.

After hearing everyone’s good moments from the meeting attendees this week, it hit me. It’s pretty easy for me to give customer service workers the benefit of the doubt, because I’ve worked in customer service. It’s not as natural for me to do the same for other people I come in contact with. Why? Because I don’t know them well enough.

Jesus said to “love thy neighbor as thine self.” Well, to love someone as yourself, you have to know the person. How do we get to know people better? Spend time with them and strive to understand them.

“It’s easy to judge. It’s more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.” — Doe Zantamata

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.