We all tend to judge, it’s our default mode. And although judging is perfectly normal and it is only human to make sense of situations, judging too early or too fast can hinder creativity, damage relationships, and even ruin lives. What I want to share is something heartbreaking that happened a while back that made me reflect upon the meaning of judgement. They say life is the best teacher, it cannot be more true.
My dad had a best friend, Michael.
He spent quiet a lot of time with Michael.
They went fishing together.
They went hiking together.
They went skiing together.
They’ve known each other since they were 5 and never grew apart over the next 50 years to come. They both moved around to different continents but still managed to keep their bond as strong as ever. What they had was a wonderful expression of real friendship.
A few years back, Michael decided to quit his job as a corporate lawyer and focus on starting a completely unrelated business.
These were tough times for Michael. At 55, he couldn’t figure out how to make a business grow and found the whole experience much harder than expected. My dad, who was a successful serial entrepreneur in his earlier days, vowed to help him thrive.
He accompanied him in every step of the way.
Writing a business plan.
Perfecting the pitch.
Most importantly, dad was Michael’s cheerleader. He helped him remain confident in his idea and picked him up every time he fell.
Exactly one year later, the sales skyrocketed. Everything seemed to fall into place after that.
Michael’s business shortly became one of the fastest growing startups in the industry.
But something started to change in Michael.
He became arrogant, conceited, and rude.
It all seemed to have changed overnight and dad couldn’t be grumpier. He couldn’t believe that his humble and thoughtful best friend would become this person standing in front of him.
They say money changes you, but not Michael, this cannot be happening.
A short while after, Michael started becoming more and more distant. At some point, he stopped taking dad’s calls. I could tell that it affected dad and I urged him to go speak to him directly at the company.
After the visit, dad came back defeated. He said that he almost did not recognize his best friend.
Dad even started beating himself up and questioned his own judgement, after all, this person has been part of his life since always and he never knew this side of him.
Later that day, dad took a drastic decision to completely remove Michael from his life and cut all contact.
Dad is one of the most compassionate people I know so it was a surprising move. I found out later that his best friend has received him at his office but spent the next 30 minutes yelling uncontrollably at one of his employees.
“He said the most cruel things.” dad said. “I don’t want anything to do with a person who treats his employees and his best friend this way.”
Dad moved on after that, but a part of him was dead. He became somehow more pessimistic about the nature of people – everything he believed in was challenged.
Five months later, Michael’s wife called us to inform us something unexpected.
Michael had passed away. From what? Brain tumor.
It all made sense at that moment. His behavior has changed not only with dad, but with everyone around him. Michael did not know of the tumor until a few days before his passing. The worst part was that he wasn’t even aware of his behavioral changes. It was the role of those closest to him, including my dad, to help him out instead of judging him. Sadly, everyone did. Even his wife blamed his behavior on stress at the time.
It was a sad moment for all our family. This experience has somewhat changed my attitude towards others.
We are often fast to judge others – too rude, too naïve, too arrogant, too cold.
We never for a second ask ourselves what this person might be going through.
Michael’s passing has taught me to have more empathy and judge much, much less.
Oh and despite everything, we still remember Michael as the kindest person we have been blessed to have in our lives.