This sounds obvious, right? There are things we don’t know, and sometimes other people automatically expect us to know them. “Common sense” can teach us some things, but it’s not a powerful guide. Yet we often complain about others doing things that we wish they wouldn’t do.
When I was a kid, I had no understanding of the value that other people placed on their automobiles. My family had farm trucks or a van that was allowed to be somewhat dirty because it hauled around children and animals. I never saw my parents show value for their vehicles as anything other than tools. So when I would get out of the car at parking lots, I would not care if my door dinged another vehicle. They were just tools to me. At a young age, I paid so little attention to vehicles that I could barely even tell makes and models apart – all I saw were colors and sizes. As I got older, a friend of mine described his dream car – the color, make and model. It suddenly occurred to me that some people care about the worth and appearance of their vehicles; after that, I made sure not to ding any more vehicles with a car door and practiced paying attention to the different kinds of vehicles that existed.
One day, a woman and her children got out of a car parked next to mine in a store parking lot. One of the girls dinged my car with her car door. I gently pointed it out to her. I could feel the indignation of my personal property being damaged, but I understood that this child did not know better. The mother sheepishly gave her daughter a brief scolding and was defensive about how little damage she’d done. I was able to swallow my indignation, as difficult as it was, and be less concerned about the level of damage – I decided that I would focus on helping someone learn something they didn’t know. I’d hoped to take away the mother’s fears of needing to be defensive, but her defensive reaction was understandable with the thought that she was protecting herself from blame that could harm her or her children in terms of emotionally, self-esteem-wise, or even physically should the blamer become aggressive. Such is the dynamic of learning in this current world.
The idea here is that we can learn and grow without being afraid of each other. We might not think that we’re afraid of the ones that we know, but we can embrace those we do not know.