“Everyone is edited by circumstance.”

Pardon me for this diversion from usual topics.

While commuting in with my wife this morning, I was listening to a talk show discussing a reality TV show (specifically, the truly horrendous Real Housewives of New York, a show which obviously stretches the meaning of the words “real” and “housewives”). In it, one of the radio hosts expressed the idea that so-called “reality television” didn’t really give you a fair view of the people on the show, because they could be edited in anyway they like, and made to look like either a sinner or a saint at the whim of the editor.

Here’s the thing that struck me: in the real “real world”, we don’t even need to have an editor do that. If someone sees you just in one meeting a year, they are seeing a very edited version of who you are. If they see you only at work, they see a very edited version of who you are. If people only know you through the Internet, they are seeing a very edited version of who you are. Even if they only see you in public with friends, you might be very different in your own home with your family.

Everyone is edited by circumstance. (That’s my new phrase, and I’m applying for trademark protection.)

What does this mean? It means that perhaps we shouldn’t be quick to judge other people. What we are seeing of them is probably only the slimmest version of what they are really like, and we should exercise a little restraint we either condemn or praise them.