Way back in the latter half of 2001, I had someone ask me this: “If you got on a plane with someone from the middle east, would you want to sit next to them? Or far from them?” My answer was that I wanted to sit right next to them. I saw it as an opportunity to learn about the differences that might exist between our culture and theirs and to learn about them as an individual. At first my friend was shocked. The attacks of Nine-Eleven had just occurred a few weeks earlier and many people in the world identified anyone of Middle Eastern decent as a threat, or somehow in support of terrorism. That was being judgmental. Now, for the record, if the person from the middle east on the plane was a terrorist, I’d still want to be sitting right next to them. That would be the best position to be in if they decided to present a threat.

Be curious, not judgmental.” – Walt Whitman

I have a confession here: I would likely never have heard that quote except that a short scene from Ted Lasso came up in my social media feeds. In the scene, the title character is playing darts against a guy who was obviously judgmental and not curious. The scene, and the title characters statements in it made me stop and think. They made me realize that virtually every bully I ever knew growing up, or dealt with during my police career, was judgmental… not curious. What was even more insightful was that if they had been curious it might have stopped them from being such bullies. Then I realized that curiosity is, to some extent, a filter that limits arrogance.

Consider that for a moment. Think back to your childhood, farther back for some readers than others, and think about the bullies that were in your day to day life. They about what type of people they were and how sure of themselves they had to be to so easily render the judgments they did; the labels they placed. Think about how they might have been just a shade less quick to judge if they had stopped, even for just a few moments, to be curious about the person they were judging.

Curiosity brings the pursuit of knowledge. Curiosity is the silent confession that we don’t know everything. For some, curiosity is probably avoided because it might bring a level of insecurity and we all know that bullies are insecure enough; they don’t need more reason to be so. It’s a shame though, because if they could just change their outlook the smallest amount, adjusting their self-perception and how they viewed others, it’s likely that a lot of bullying could be neutralized.

Further consider those bullies as they grew from childhood to adulthood. It’s an unfortunate reality that unless the bully runs into someone that stands up to them, fights them, embarrasses them, humbles them, they stay a bully into adulthood. It’s almost inevitable that they will eventually run into someone that puts them in their place. Hopefully they learn from the experience, grow and become better. Or, the other response they might have, is to turn that reminder that their insecurity is justified into an even greater habit of bullying. It can quickly become an ugly spiraling growth until the eventual fall hits even harder.

So, think about it for a minute and appreciate the value of curiosity. Understand the power of being curious instead of judgmental. Understand the power it lends to personal growth and the positive impact it can have on life.

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