Self-imposed barriers

Albert was rather perturbed by one recent piece of news. He ran far, he ran fast, yet he failed to leave the damaging knowledge behind. The facts haunted him, without relent. He had judged when he thought that he didn't.

One recent teacher-to-be was sentenced to jail for having consensual sex with an underage pubescent girl.

Dear, he had thought, what is this world coming to? How can any student ever trust their teachers? Just a few months ago, another teacher-wannabe was sentenced to jail for hardcore child pornography. Albert sighed.

This guy, this teacher-to-be who had sex with an underage girl, he deserved punishment. Instinctively, Albert passed judgement.

He dismissed this troubling piece of news rather readily, filing it away as potential gossip material until he overheard a conversation at the coffee shop. Juicy. He perched on the edge of his chair lightly, feigning an interest in The Straits Times while straining to eavesdrop.
'This guy, what's his problem? He's giving a bad reputation to us teachers.' One guy stabbed a finger at the newspapers' front page, on an unflattering photo of the culprit.

His friend let out a heavy breath. 'Don't judge, not when you don't know the full story.'

'Huh, what do you -'

His friend frowned. 'He was a fellow friend who trained alongside me in the army. I called him when the shit hit the ceiling. You know, he actually had consensual sex with the girl when he was 17 or 18. He was young, ignorant then and -'

'But that's still wrong. Justification. It's not right, just wrong-'

'Look, do you want me to continue?' On the adjacent table, Albert willed the talkative guy to silence. Please shut up. I want to know the full story.

'Okay,' his friend glanced at the former, took a deep breath and whispered, 'he had sex once with the girl and that's all. Then, a few years later, while he was serving the army, the girl came back and they were steady for a while. Just a few weeks and they broke up. The next time Aaron heard her name was in the news and that's because she's pregnant. And the baby wasn't his.'

'Oh no.'

'You have to understand. The guy - my friend - came from a broken family. His dad married a second woman and they divorced. Can you imagine what a turmoil this might turn out to be? He pulled himself together, studied hard, became a sergeant in the army and eventually got sponsorship for his university degree. It wasn't easy for him, not at all.'

'What about the girl?'

'The girl, she isn't Mother Theresa. For goodness sake, read carefully. She had sex with fifteen other guys. Not one, not two, but fifteen! Now, fifteen people are in deep shit because of her. She's promiscuous and ...'

Silence had never been this uncomfortable.

'And your friend?'

'He has to pay MOE a significant sum of money. Enough money to buy one library worth of rare books. And be jailed for a year.'

Albert suddenly felt dirty. He had read the article, looked at the guy's photo and passed judgement within a space of 5 minutes. With an unquestioning, all-accepting mind. He should know better than to judge so casually. He should, shouldn't he?

He had studied about mass media for his General Paper. Sensationalism and censorship. Twin factors ensuring the survival and proliferation of the media itself. He had even wrote a pretty decent essay on this topic. Yet, why in the world did he not assimilate the knowledge?

Judging before knowing. An instinctive fallacy.

That cloudless night, he ran with a vague sense of frustration.

Somehow, he ended within a Japanese cemetery. His pace slowed. His heartbeats slowed. Amidst the tombstones and his powerlessness, he prayed.

For the ability to see with his heart's eyes without judging.
To be forgiven for impulsively judging.
For the world to feel for truth and let love reign.
For the fella who would be jailed in four days' time.
For the numerous faceless fellow beings suffering likewise from neglect.

All the best to you, the stranger's friend, may this year of solace brings you peace and growth.
Perhaps, when we know the personal tragedies of others, we won't judge them so readily. Perhaps, even when we don't know, we can refuse to judge.