The Other Side of the Story
"What's the other side of the story?" From as far back as I can remember whenever I would approach my parents with a complaint about someone's "mistreatment" of me, that would be the reply. It used to infuriate me. They were my parents and, as far as I was concerned, they were supposed to believe that there was only one side to any story, my side. I was not interested in being fair, or balanced, or even reasonable...I was interested in being right.
Though their refusal to come down on my side without question made me stomp off to my room on more than one occasion. I now see what a gift that annoying question was. What they were teaching me wasn't only that we all see things differently, it was that we also can see the other side of the story if we choose to look, and in that looking lies the key to freedom.
The key to freedom from our limiting beliefs about ourselves whether that belief is that we always need to be better than others (who needs that pressure?), or are more deeply flawed than the rest of humanity (really?). When we look at the other side of the stories of others we create an opening to hold our own story in a more realistic and compassionate context.
Looking at the other side of the story requires that we take a step back and distance ourselves from the emotion that the event engenders in us. We have to detach from our feelings about whatever it is that has happened and play the, "what if," game. What if I were on the other side of this experience? What if I misunderstood what actually happened? What if I misunderstood the intention of the other person? Or, simply, what if I were just wrong in my actions?
Merely asking the question changes everything. Just by our willingness to ask we free ourselves from the burden of having to be right. We give ourselves permission to be human and fallible and don't make our fallibility a statement on our worth. We give ourselves an opportunity to understand something that might otherwise elude us, something about ourselves, the other person, or even about life.
Holding that awareness of the importance of perspective gives us another gift that I have used with my clients, the gift of being able to rewrite our own difficult stories. When we are able to see from the other side, or sides, we can use that perspective to better understand our own actions and to hold a more charitable view of what we may dislike, in ourself or another. We all screw up from time to time, but no one wakes up thinking, "Hmm, how can I make a mess of my life today?"
Holding a more evenhanded perspective can help us correct our unhealthy patterns, redress the wrongs we may have done, and allow us to let go of the stories that hold us back. This doesn't mean that there is a reasonable excuse for all behavior, it just means that we lose nothing, and can gain a great deal, from being willing to remember that there are other points of view.
While the other side of the story isn't always one we want to hear there is a spaciousness that occurs within us when we decide to let another perspective in. When we allow ourselves to take that step back we not only hold the transgressions of others with a more generous heart, we hold our own transgressions more compassionately as well. So the next time you find yourself getting tied up in knots over an injustice take a step back, take a breath, and consider the other side of the story.