I got the opportunity yesterday to see and listen to a portion of Supreme Court candidate Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings. Aside from the praise and acknowledgment of her incredible career and family, as the hearing began a slew of ideological commentaries and questions indicated a particular point of view. And while I disagree with many of those viewpoints, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of the Senators who were cherry-picking portions of Judge Brown’s rulings, written opinions, and connections.
I realized that any time I don’t feel compassion for another human being, the issue is with me. I started telling a story to myself about those Senators, and it converted them into villains. I quickly dropped a bomb into my thoughts with a highly edited list of adjectives to describe strangers. I constructed a permanent label or flaw for those with whom I had no personal contact or a relationship.
I understand that some people’s flaws are unbearable. I’m not claiming that I don’t equate compassion with permission, nor am I claiming that misery is a fabrication or that the flaws I identified aren’t significant. However, I’m arguing that the adjectives we choose significantly impact our perceptions of and responses to others.
I came away from the Supreme Court nominee confirmation hearings yesterday feeling extremely proud of how Judge Brown handled herself, and with three questions that I’d like to share with you and ask your thoughts on, and if you have the courage, I’d love to hear your answers:
- Can someone’s point of view so profoundly affect us that we find no value in the other person?
- How do the stories we create affect our attitudes toward other people?
- Can we accept a more moderate and completely different story about others?