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There is a story about a coup d’état that took place in small kingdom. When the soldiers came looking for the king to kill him, he fled into the city and hid in a tailor shop. Immediately recognizing his important guest, the tailor, without so much as a question, shoved him under a large pile of clothing.
Shortly thereafter, soldiers stormed into the shop, swords in hand, shouting, “We know the king is hiding here!” Stabbing the pile of clothes repeatedly, they missed the king by mere inches. Finding nothing, the soldiers stalked out and into the next shop.
When the king emerged from under the clothes, he said to the kind old tailor, “Thank you. You saved my life. For this, I would like to grant you three wishes.” Surprised and excited, the humble tailor thought for a moment and asked, “First off, when your power is restored, I would like you to declare a National Tailors Day. Secondly, all tailors in the kingdom should be paid double. And thirdly…” he paused for a moment before saying, “I must say I am curious. I want to know something: How did you, the king, feel when these people were trying to kill you?”
“Done,” declared the king, and with that, he left the tailor’s shop.
The coup failed, and the king was returned to his throne. As his first order of business, he announced a National Tailors Day, also proclaiming that all tailors in the kingdom should be paid double. Then he ordered that the tailor be arrested and brought to the gallows. Terrified and bewildered, the tailor couldn’t imagine how and why he was being treated so badly. The noose was placed around the tailor’s neck, but just before the lever was pulled, the king intervened and shouted, “Release him!” The tailor turned to the king, still shaking with fear. When their eyes met, the king said quietly: “Now your third wish has been granted also. You now know what it feels like!”
The point of this story is that we may think we might know what others are going through, but until we walk in their shoes, we really don’t. This is why, when we are faced with a difficult person, it is wise to be compassionate and accepting.
Let’s face it. We all judge. We take a look at people and we judge them—by the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they speak. The problem is that sometimes we get so full of judgment that we leave no place for love. We get so full of ourselves—who we think we are, what we believe we are entitled to—that there is no space for others and there is no space for God.
This week, let’s remember that real spiritual growth happens when we grow our empathy, our ability to feel another’s pain. How? By opening up our hearts to care, rather than our minds to judge. After all, there is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with others.