Empathy: Don’t Judge Before Knowing Someone

In 2009, I had a full schedule of science classes in the university in order to get my credits completed to be able to start nursing school. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I had an Anatomy and Physiology class that lasted four hours.

For a personality like me, sitting for four hours in a non interactive lecture can can be brutal. I have had some professors in the past that can make the college experience enjoyable, but some professors know how to put you directly to sleep.

For this Anatomy and Physiology class, I had a woman professor that had to be in her mid 40s. From the very first day of class I could not figure her out. When she showed up to class she didn’t necessarily seem like she wanted to be there. She was smart, had lots of interesting things to say, but many of her comments were directed towards negativity, even though I don’t even think she realized she was doing it.

At many times she would become irritated by the littlest things and have reactions a little bit too emotional, and for this reason, many people in the class had a very negative image of her. I remember hearing people on breaks talk about her and her attitude, wishing that anyone in the world was our professor, except her. People would make comments such as,

“She is terrible person! She needs to find her job in another field away from people. With her random outburst of frustration over things, she needs to seriously be on some heavy anti depressant medication.”

The majority of the class was pretty much fed up with her by the middle of the semester and avoided her at all costs.

One day she came into class looking worse than she’s ever looked before. She took a deep breath, forced a smile and began the class. However, this time something wasn’t right.

In most classes there tends to be that one person who is very direct and honest, and doesn’t necessarily seem to have a filter on their mouth. A middle aged man in our class stood up in front of everyone, looked directly at her and said in a mean voice, “What is wrong with you? You don’t need to be here if you don’t like your job. All of us feel the same way.”

In that moment, she stood there frozen and her chin began to tremble.

I knew that she was trying to keep a very professional appearance, like she always does, but this time tears began to roll down her face. With as much sincerity and as I’ve ever seen from someone, she began cry and open up on what has happened over the last 6 months.

We all sat with tears in her eyes as she told us about how she lost her only teenage daughter over the summer due to a drunk driver. During this whole semester it caused so much grief between her and her husband, that he decided it was too much to handle, and picked up and left her with nothing.

She realized that as much as she wanted to stay in bed and cry that she had to keep going with her life .

She was in financial problems due to the divorce and had no other options but to work. She had to force herself to get up each morning and put one foot in front of the other, regardless of the pain. After her little mini breakdown, the class felt so ashamed for the way they had judged our teacher for the previous two months.

Everyone tried to avoid her, made rude comments behind her back and completely isolated her, when all she needed was for someone to come up and tell her that they really cared about her.

What we learned is that she had a really amazing life with her daughter and husband and in just a blink of an eye she lost it all.

Through this situation I learned a very important lesson on the importance of finding out the whole story before making a judgment on someone. We don’t know what the person next to us is going through and that is why it’s so important to look at everyone with a heart of acceptance and take time to listen to their stories before jumping to conclusions and assuming they are just a bad or negative person. What you are usually find is that when someone has bad, irrational changes in behavior, it’s for a reason.

The next time you feel like being rude because someone does not treat you with the respect you want in a store, at school, work or wherever it may be, stop before you react and remember that behind everyone is a hidden story. 


Don’t forget to read:



Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comEmpathy: Don’t Judge Before Knowing Someone