Mistaken Identity

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.’  John Powell

As often happens, something in the news caught my eye, and inspired me to reel in a global topic that distresses me – and find a way to learn from it and to grow in my own life.

The article was this one about former professional tennis player James Blake, who was stepping out of his New York City hotel room, on his way to an event, when he was tackled and handcuffed by 5 plain clothes police officers. He had been misidentified as a criminal the officers had been trying to apprehend. This was a distressing article to read about- but when I brought the macro down to the micro- as usual it gave me something personal to ponder.

When we view this scene from afar we may wonder, ‘how could those officers do that?’ But if we put our vision on our own lives, how often are we guilty of doing just what those officers did- mentally jumping on someone and handcuffing them before we ever know who they are?

We all have our own faulty surveillance tactics and when our surveillance has failed us we use the handcuffs of judgment to bind up the one we have just taken down via the power of our own thoughts. And since this all happens on the inner landscape of our minds, due process is not always followed.  Indeed, there is a whole subsection of our world that will take someone down with judgment, and never bother to turn them face up and ask them who they are.

I wonder how many of us are in that spot with someone right now? Tackled by judgment, and never even given the chance to speak our own name, to tell our own story so as to reveal our true identity. Face down with no chance of revealing ourselves is an awful place to be…. and, it is not just the James Blakes of the world that it happens to. It happens on the micro levels of our lives all the time.

Personally, in my own life, I have found that mistaken identity occurs when I let fear stand in front of me and obstruct my vision. When I have someone on the outskirts of my life that I have pegged as ‘a bad guy’ (or gal) I try my hardest to get a better view of him or her; some one on one time, direct communication, – some kind of first person interaction. Nine times out of ten, once I get to know the person, the ‘bad guy’ persona falls away and I find a perfectly acceptable human being in their place. By using this method, I have found that there are really not that many ‘bad guys’ out there in the world- there are a vast variety of people to be sure, and not all of them are people I want to cozy up to, but most of them do not intend harm… and that intention, to cause another harm, to me is truly the only thing that makes someone a bona fide ‘bad guy.’

Next time you are tempted to ambush the ‘bad guy’ out there…. Before you tackle and cuff ‘em…. make sure that fear has not blocked your vision and created a case of mistaken identity.

And if there is anyone out there that you have tackled from afar and left face down in the gutter…get closer to them- and let them turn their face toward the sun…. you might be surprised to see who they really are.