At the gates of a city sat a wise old man. A rich man stopped to ask him:
“Wise man, I’ve often heard people talk about this city, of its beauty and wealth, of its marble houses and springs with clear waters, yet I have not heard anything about its people. You who know them for so long, can you tell me how they are? I'd like to move to these lands, but firstly I want to know about their inhabitants.”
“I will answer after you first tell me how the people are in the city you left behind,” replied the wise man.
“The people in those places are bad and envious. They gossip behind each other’s backs, they are lazy and seek to benefit from dishonest work.”
“The people in this place are exactly the same as the ones you describe,” the old man answered.
Unhappy with the answer, the rich man gave orders to his servants to continue their search for a better city. Later that day, a humble man came alone after a long journey through the desert, stopped in front of the wise man, and asked:
“My dear lord, I've traveled a long way. I don’t have any water or food left and I am exhausted. I would like to stop in this city to rest for a while. I have often heard of this place, but I would like to know how the people of this city are. Would they welcome me here?”
The wise man looked at him with goodwill and asked the same question:
“How were the people in the city that you left behind?”
“People there are nice, they always open their doors for those looking for shelter. They are honest men and hard workers, who love and respect their neighbors.”
“The people in this place are exactly the same as the ones you describe.”
What is your opinion? How are the people in your town, your friends and acquaintances?
Menis Yousry once said that we, humans, "are prisoners of our perceptions of the world". In other words, the way we see others is subjective, limited by our own prejudices and perspectives, our fears and anxieties. The attitude we use to label a particular person, social group, or a nation tends to come from an inner source. This often perceives the truth only partially and thus limits our understanding of the external world. Yousry calls us "prisoners" to reveal the fact that our perceptions are limited not just for the outside, but for ourselves too, because they hold us captives to dishonest preconceptions.
To be a prisoner of your own conception is more harmful than being physically captive. While in order to free yourself from jail you need another person's approval, in case of self-condemnation, the release comes from within. As long as you are not willing to recognize your prisoner status towards yourself, you will never be able to free yourself. How can we free ourselves from this type of inner prison?
Your perception of the world must change. Do not look at the general aspects - try to know a person individually, authentically. Don’t judge others through your own filters – try to accept other possibilities. Don’t assume that everyone thinks or acts the same as you do – try to accept and encourage diversity.
People were created to be free. Unfortunately, sometimes a prison of mind is worse than one of the body.
Break free of prejudices and change your perspective on the world!