We usually judge our world by perceptions. “If you think you are living in hell, you are.” If God’s loving presence is felt in your life, heaven has been touched. Our perceptions can make us angry or lead us to laughter. Thich Nhat Hanh, poet, author, and Zen master, tells the story of a man who was rowing his boat upstream on a very misty morning. “Suddenly, he saw another boat coming downstream, not trying to avoid him. It was coming straight at him. He shouted, ‘Be careful! Be careful!’ but the boat came right into him, and his boat was almost sunk. The man became very angry, and began to shout at the other person, to give him a piece of his mind. But when he looked closely, he saw that there was no one in the other boat. It turned out that the boat just got loose and went downstream. All his anger vanished, and he laughed and he laughed. If our perceptions are not correct, they may give us a lot of bad feelings.” (Being Peace)

If we see people from a judgmental point of view, looking for their faults rather than their virtues, we’re likely to have strained personal relationships and be unhappy ourselves. Negative thinking multiplies itself just as positive energy produces positive result. If we are in the fault-finding business, what we find most objectionable in others usually exists in our own lives. We just prefer to assign blame to others rather than dealing with our own issues.

Shannon L. Adler, who has shared numerous quotes of advice with her readers, comments wisely about judging others. “When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow the vision of God. The road to righteousness and arrogance is a parallel road that can intersect each other several times throughout a person’s life. It’s often hard to recognize one road from another. What makes them different is the road to righteousness is paved with the love of humanity. The road to arrogance is paved with the love of self.”

Most of us desire peace in our world and within our selves. For this to happen we have to begin by becoming peace ourselves. Our perceptions exercised in judgmental or condemning ways need to be replaced with compassion. The lack in another person can be filled with love rather than anger. The difference in perception comes when we see God’s presence within each other, even in those wearing a “distressing disguise.” The arrogance of self love needs to be replaced with generous self-giving love.

Instead of giving a piece of your mind to those who disturb you, try giving the peace of your heart.

This column was originally published October 22, 2014.