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Human beings believe in what their senses perceive. This blind trust in human senses has sometimes made humans to reflect on one side of the picture and thus completely ignoring the other side. If a person has to know the real cause of any action, his/her focus should not be on what he/she sees, but what he/she believes in. Actions can be easily misinterpreted and misunderstood but justice demands to know the driving force behind this action and how it justifies that action. Although, it is believed that actions are a reflection of a person’s mind, nevertheless, it is important to understand people’s motivation before judging their actions because through common observations, while empathizing with one’s religious beliefs, true justice for one’s actions can be achieved.
It is a common observation, although people judge themselves by their intentions and motivations not by their actions however, they judge other people by their actions. If one does something which creates trouble for a person however, in reality one does not mean to trouble that person. Though the action is wrong, one will soothe himself/herself by saying that he/she did not mean to trouble that person. For example, even if a person commits a crime such a robbery. One should not conclude from his action (robbery) directly that the accused is by nature a robber. Instead of judging the accused by his actions, one should make himself aware of the circumstances under which he committed the crime. There are a number of possibilities; what if he has robbed a person to help a person who is in hospital and cannot afford his treatment, what if he has robbed a person to help the poor who are dying of hunger, what if someone has kidnapped his relatives and asked him to rob someone. Although, the action of the accused (robbery) is wrong, considering the circumstances under which the accused committed the crime. One will have sympathy with the accused. No doubt there will be a difference in one’s judgment about the accused by first judging him on the basis of his action and then by trying to understand his motivation and then judging him. Similarly, if a person put himself in place of the accused, he/she surely will soothe himself/herself by saying “Although my action was illegal, considering the circumstances I was provided with, I was right”. If one uses this approach for judging oneself then it is the right of each person to be judged by his/her motivations not by his/her actions.

Similarly, if one address the question “Is it important to try to understand people’s motivations before judging their actions?” through religious perspective, one will reach the conclusion that it is important to understand people’s motivations before judging their actions. For example if there are only two religions, religion A and religion B. Some people believe in religion A and the remaining are the believers of religion B. The rituals (religious acts) of one religion make no logic to the believers of the corresponding religion. If religion A believers judge the believers of the religion B by their actions (rituals etc), they will consider them fools because their action will make no sense to them and vice versa. But if religion A believers try to know the motivations of the actions of the religion B believer’s, they may end up with that religion B believers are doing what comforts them mentally and spiritually the best. So, they are correct as far as their own viewpoint is concerned. Same is the case with religion A believer’s they are doing (believing in their religion and performing its rituals) what they think the best. If both were to judge each other by their actions they may consider each other fools but if they try to understand each other’s motivations they will come to the conclusion that both are correct with respect to their own viewpoints. So, in order to know the real nature of someone it is mandatory to understand his/her motivations.
Moreover, it is also very important to know people’s motivation for their actions because after knowing their motivations one will be in a better position to change their mentality (stop them), if they are doing something wrong. For example the current terrorism situation in Pakistan is horrifying and its results are very catastrophic. The terrorist are brain washing the minds of the young innocent illiterate youth and then asking them to do suicide bombings which kills a large numbers of innocent people. If the Pakistani government judges the terrorists and the suicide bombers by their actions, the result will be that they should be punished brutally in front of the public so that no one should dare to do such kind of activities again in future. But, thinking at this problem logically, one will realize that this will in fact exemplify the problem because the terrorist will be in a better position to brain wash the minds of the innocent youth. On the other hand, if the Pakistani government addresses this problem by judging the terrorists and suicide bombers by their motivation, they can come up with better results. Once the Pakistani government is aware of their motivations, the government can take certain steps that will help the innocent youth to resist the terrorists, who brain wash them and indirectly force them to become suicide bombers. In short, it is very important to know people’s motivation because one can come up with better results by considering other’s motivations than by just considering their actions.
Furthermore, every person has his own reasons for performing an action and in order to judge someone justly, he should be judged by his motivations/intentions (cause) instead of judging him by his actions. The renowned Greek philosopher Aristotle had the concept that every action and change has a cause. So, every action that a person performs has a cause behind it which is responsible for that action. For example, if a person move a chair from one place to another. The first cause of that action is the hands of the person that moved the chair. Now, according to Aristotle, there must also be a cause for the movement of the hands of the person who moved the chair. And that cause is the decision which he made in his mind to move that chair from one place to another. Moreover, a change has occurred in that person’s mind. At first, there was nothing in his mind about that chair and then he started thinking about that chair and made his mind to move it. Similarly, there must also be a cause for this change which maybe that he moved it because he was thinking his roommate might fell upon it (as it may be present in the way). This is the cause which is responsible for his action. So, if one wants to judge people justly, one must understand their motivation (cause) and then consider their action instead of just judging them by their actions.
Although, action is the reflection of an individual’s personality and the result of what a person is thinking in his mind, his/her thoughts are not responsible for the actions performed. It is rather the cause that brings thoughts into his mind and is responsible for his actions. As according to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, every action has a cause. In order to judge someone fairly, one must evaluate the person by the cause which is responsible for his/her actions. Therefore, instead of judging people by their thinking or actions, it is important that their motivations should be given consideration, hence judging them by the cause (motivation) that brought a specific thought to their mind.
Although, it is argued that actions are performed by a person due to his state of mind, this argument is a little unfair.  Several aspects such as those considering religion negate such an approach i.e. a pure motivation towards an action is the best thing a person can do. If actions are judged directly, the world can face immense chaos as a result. Furthermore, the notion regarding the importance of motivation in order to influence one’s action shows that a person’s acts can be altered through the positive manipulation of their motivations. This strengthens the idea that a lot of changes can be brought about if the ideas behind a person’s acts are dealt with rather than directly dealing with their actions. Therefore it can be concluded that it is in the best interest of the society to handle an individual’s motivation instead of the actions performed by them.

Written By: Imran Malik ( LUMS' Student)

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