The Fault of Misunderstanding

There’s a rid­dle that goes:

Two chim­ney sweep­ers are work­ing in a chim­ney when one los­es his foot­ing and caus­es both to fall into the fire­place. One ends up with a black, sooty face, while the oth­er is lucky and stays clean. Both look at each oth­er in aston­ish­ment after the sur­pris­ing fall. The one with the clean face goes to the bath­room to wash his face, while the oth­er con­tin­ues work­ing with his dark­ened com­plex­ion. Logically explain the actions of the two sweep­ers.

The answer is sim­ple. The one with the dirty face sees the one with the clean face, and assumes that his face is clean as well. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face, assumes the oppo­site, and wash­es up.

And even though I know the answer to the rid­dle, some­times I for­get that such con­fu­sion exists. For exam­ple, if I had a car, I’d be giv­ing peo­ple rides to Tremblent. And since I’d be going there myself, I would­n’t ask peo­ple for gas mon­ey. Other peo­ple, how­ev­er, see the car ride as part of the cost of going there, and will plan on split­ting the cost of gas when orga­niz­ing the trip. Both ideals are fine, but I pre­fer to not ask peo­ple for mon­ey if I’m not going out of my way to do some­thing.

And, being the igno­rant idiot that I am, I will some­times for­get that oth­ers are not like me, that oth­ers assume that gas mon­ey will be split. Perhaps it can be said that I’m as much at fault as oth­ers who assume the oppo­site, but that does­n’t real­ly mat­ter to me. The best solu­tion, in such cas­es, is that an under­stand­ing be reached when things are planned.

An exam­ple like this, which has been tak­en from per­son­al expe­ri­ence, can be relat­ed so many oth­er things in life. That just means that I need to work hard­er at being con­sid­er­ate of how oth­ers think.

Because some would rather be angry than under­stand­ing.

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