“I can’t believe that person cut me off.”
“My customer told me I was ruining her day. What the heck is her problem?”
“Our waiter is taking forever bringing us the extra napkin and glass of water we asked for. What is he even doing?”
“Can you believe those kids? Gossiping about their parents like that. They make me so mad.”
All of the above are statements (or variations thereof) of posts I see rampant on social media. Not limited to social media, they also run rampant via text messages and face-to-face comments. Every time I turn around, someone is angry with someone else and wants to vent about how they or someone else was wronged.
And yet, we never ask ourselves to see the alternative. For example, I’ve cut people off before while driving purely by accident. I’ve felt terrible, but there was no way for me to apologize.
Why do we never say, “That person just cut me off. I hope they’re okay” or “My customer just told me I was ruining her day. Could it be she doesn’t know our company rules inside and out? How does it look like from where she’s standing?”?
It’s easier to be angry, to take offense, to be hurt, and to vent. That’s almost always easier than trying to find another explanation. Here are the same scenarios again, with other interpretations you could apply just as readily as the ones above:
Someone cuts you off –> Maybe it’s a new driver, an older driver, or someone distracted by the horrible family news they just received. Perhaps someone is distracted due to a physical or mental illness. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe they simply saw it as the fastest route to their destination and meant you no ill-will in the process.
Your customer accuses you of ruining their day –> Maybe they’re frazzled from dealing with their young children all day. Maybe they’re scared the experience they’ve been saving for is falling apart. Maybe they’re scared they won’t be heard or helped. Maybe they are dealing with personal distractions or taking out their anger on you due to everything else going on in their lives.
Your waiter has “forgotten” to take care of you –> Maybe they truly did forget and would appreciate a gentle reminder. Maybe they are busy with things you are not aware of. Maybe they are new and stressing about taking care of all their tables at once. Maybe they are dealing with personal problems that are distracting them.
Kids are speaking condescendingly about their parents –> Maybe these kids need help. What exactly is the relationship between them and their parents? Can you say? Can you cast judgement with no more facts than tone of voice and word choice?
The reason I’m challenging you to view these scenarios with a kinder eye is for YOUR benefit. What does it benefit you to sulk for hours and complain to all your coworkers about one rude customer when there are dozens that have been pleasant and offered you a smile? What does it benefit you to stew over conversations other families are having when you are in no way involved and can never have the details to understand it? What does it benefit you to lose your patience with your waiter or another driver and feed on that anger the rest of the day? The person who cut you off is gone, the waiter may not take your rude remarks to heart, and the teenage kids will never even know you were angry.
But it DOES do you a world of good to choose to interpret situations in a kinder light. It allows you to feel the anger briefly and then let go, or, better yet, refrain from getting to a state of anger in the first place. It allows you to move on with the rest of your day. It allows you to soften instead of becoming jaded. It allows you to focus on the vast goodness around you and accept that most people come from a well-intentioned place.
It also positively impacts your interactions with those around you. If you frequently jump to the conclusion others are trying to hurt you or piss you off, you flavor your interactions with self-entitlement, resentment, and become exactly the type of person you were upset about in the first place. You become the hard-hearted person who refuses to give others the benefit of the doubt. You become the one quick to judge and slow to love.
Jumping to hurtful conclusions helps no one, least of all yourself. This next week, I encourage you to take time to notice when you jump to conclusions in which you feel angry or wronged. What conclusions did you jump to? List all the other possible conclusions for the behavior you witnessed. Could it be something else is going on? See if you can soften toward others and toward yourself, and be patient with yourself if this process takes time. Share any insights or thoughts below!
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