Don’t judge others for you do not know their story…

On Wednesday at the ‘Life 4 Living‘ group that I attend, we had a very interesting seminar on Diversity.  In the seminar we were split into two groups and given a laminated sheet with a picture of an island, and a deck of cards with pictures of a diverse group of people, with only their occupation listed on the cards.  We were then told that a ship carrying the people on the cards was in an accident, which resulted in the ship sinking and the people being stranded in the middle of the ocean.  Each group had a lifeboat – however, on the lifeboat there were only spaces for 10 people, and hence we had to decide who of those people to save and whom to leave in the water.

This was obviously very difficult as the only basis we had to make our decisions is what they looked like and their occupations.  During our discussions we decided to save a doctor and nurse, to treat those with medical injuries, a carpenter to help build shelter from the bad weather, and gardener’s to help grow crops and nutrients whilst being stuck on the deserted island.

However, we soon learnt that the doctor who we chose to rescue was in fact a doctor of music and not a medical doctor.  And the nurse, was a veterinarian and so would not be very useful in treating human patients!  And the people whom we rejected, for example, the biker as we thought he looked like he would cause trouble, would in fact be extremely useful in an emergency situation as he was a surgeon.

This exercise, however, taught us how we often make judgements based on very little information causing us to make snap decisions on the type of person we are busy scrutinising.  We are too busy scrutinising others; determining the type of person we believe them to be instead of seeking out the person’s story.


Many of you spoonies reading this will surely understand this; particularly those with invisible illnesses as we are often victim of others’ judgements.  For example, once I went out, and forgot my crutch.  Due to the problems with my balance, I was all over the place, and as a result, a woman came up to me and accused me of being drunk.  I have heard many other stories, of spoonies whom have been victims of incorrect assumptions made by others – people who have been accused of misusing a disability badge, because there were no outward signs of illness or disability, and thus were labelled as being healthy, and in no need of using a disability parking bay.  There are endless examples of these types of anecdotes that have been shared by spoonies everywhere.  I am sure everyone reading can think of at least one example from their personal experience.  Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.


So, the game that we played at Life 4 Living, and through the experience of living with an invisible illness, has taught me to not make assumptions about people, without getting to know them first.  To not assume that a person has no wounds, or illness because there are no scars; no signs of illness or disability as not all wounds, illnesses or disabilities are visible, many are hidden as if keeping a secret from the outside world.  And as the quote above also tells us, we also shouldn’t judge so quickly or harshly as we may find ourselves walking in that person’s shoes.

Perhaps if we weren’t so quick to judge in the exercise at Life 4 Living then we may have chosen the people that would have been useful whilst being deserted on that island, instead of those we chose based on our preconceived ideas regarding their abilities and resources that they would bring.


This is a lesson that we all must learn….

8 thoughts on “Don’t judge others for you do not know their story…

  1. Thanks Rhiann. This was a great post. You asked for our experiences? Here’s one. I have severe rheumatoid arthritis (among other things). I pulled into the handicap parking spot at target and put my placard on my review mirror (in NY you’re not allowed to drive with it hanging, not sure if this is true elsewhere) and I got out of my car and grabbed my little friend’s hand (I was watching a little girl for my friend). A woman came over to me and told me I shouldn’t use the placard without my handicap person with me. I was told that I was taking somebodies parking spot from them when they needed it and it was against the law for me to use the placard. I told her that I was the handicap person and she told me that I was perfectly able to walk the extra few steps to from the farther spaces. I told her she shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because you never know what’s going on inside and she said she wanted to see my license to verify that I was the one who was supposed to be using it. I told her to get security and I would show them. I waited for 5 minutes by my car with my little friend and security didn’t show up. I guess she changed her mind. Meanwhile my little friend asked me why the woman didn’t look at my hands? Or why she didn’t notice the big black boot I’ve been sporting on my left foot for the last year, or why she didn’t see my cane in my passenger seat. When I go into a store I use the cart for support. My little friend is 4 and more understanding than this woman. Obviously, this stuck with me. All I wanted to do was scream, and if I hadn’t been accompanied by a little human being I probably would have..
    Thank you again

    • Thank you so much for visiting my blog and sharing your experiences. Unfortunately, your story is all too familiar and one which I am sure is shared by many – I know a few people, that this has happened to. People do not seem to understand that not all disabilities or health conditions can be seen – you cannot tell by looking at a person whether they are suffering from cancer, heart conditions, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis and so many other conditions that are entitled to a handicap placard. Well done on sticking up for yourself though! It’s not always easy to do something like that! Yes, your little friend certainly sounds as she has more understanding and empathy for others in her little finger than the woman has in her whole body!

      Thank you again for sharing your story, hopefully by all of us sharing our stories and experiences we can make people more aware of invisible conditions and disabilities so people do not automatically judge others.

      Rhiann x

  2. Rhiann, You certainly know my thoughts on judging a book by it’s cover! Love the exercise you shared, hopefully it will encourage people to think a bit differently. As for who gets on that lifeboat, is there room for the man of my dreams? -Pamela-

    • Thank you for your positive feedback as usual Pam. Yes, it was a thought-provoking exercise, and I think made us all realise the pitfalls of making snap judgements about others – hopefully it will stop us in the future and think before we assume something about another person in the future. Hopefully there would be room for men of both of our dreams!!

  3. […] I feel that this is an important word for the A to Z of chronic illness as not every condition that can be considered a chronic illness is visible to others.  It is said that approximately 96 per cent of people are living with a chronic medical conditions that show no outward signs of their illness, and hence are invisible.  There are many people living with disabling medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis that you would never know have the condition.  Many stories are reported from people with chronic illnesses on blogs, or on Twitter who are abused by the public for using a disabled parking spot because they do not believe that are in need of such a place as they cannot see that they have an illness or disability that would require such a permit. You can read more about this subject on my past post ‘Don’t judge others for you do not know their story.’ […]

  4. I’ve been judged even as I load and unload an oxygen concentrator out of my car. Which also surprised me. I guess some people still only believe that disability looks a certain way to them to be valid, which is really terrible. Even one of my friends who has some lingering issues with walking and balance in his feet after having a kidney transplant some time ago sometimes still gets that judginess for using his permit. It’s really sad. I like this blog entry. Good reminder.

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