Oftentimes I ask myself if I am truly getting better and growing as a person. Another question that pops in my head (other than can I convince margie to eat pizza again) is what benefits does all my study and work bring to my life? This question is important for two reasons. First, it keeps me motivated to keep improving my own life. Second, and perhaps more important, I can share with all of you the great things that will happen when you work to improve yourself and your own life. Putting in effort is a lot easier when you know there is a reward at the end of it.
So where am I going with all of this? Here is where. Last week I was taking Margie to get cake supplies at a specialty store. In the process I was confused to where the store actually was. I thought I was supposed to turn right, but as I was doing so Margie informed me I should be turning left. So I stopped and switched my turn signal. The light was red so we had to wait. Now as I thought I was going to turn right, which I could have done, the bumper of my car was in the crosswalk. A lady happen to be crossing the street and had to walk around the front of my car. Now I realize this was an inconvenience for her and it was my mistake for not knowing which way to turn. What was this lady’s reaction for having to walk around my bumper? She began to yell a string of curse words at me and waving, all be it with one finger. Margie was eager to offer this lady an explanation with equal enthusiasm. I convinced her that may not be in our best interests.
Here is what I learned. My first reaction to this was “Wow, I can’t believe she is getting that angry over something that trivial”. Then I began to recall how I used to do the same. Often our reaction is built up over early events and spills out when we have just had enough. My next thought was what this lady was doing to herself. That much anger can have bad physical consequences. It releases stress hormones which can cause us to gain weight. It raises our blood pressure and puts stress on our heart. It prematurely ages us. All this because she had to walk a few extra inches. Yelling at me was doing more damage to her. I felt compassion and then had the urge to give the lady the address of this very website. Perhaps she had a lot of stress in her life that she could use some help solving.
One more amazing thing I realized later. In the past even though I realized how ridiculous her anger may have been, being cursed out like that would have affected me. Nobody like to be yelled at, cursed out or given the one finger salute. In changing my reaction to one of compassion and concern for this lady, which has taken years of practice to do, lessened the effect it had on me. In fact, by making the situation more about her and less about me I suffered less.
We never know people’s stories and why they may be upset. This lady was correct in that my car should not have been in the crosswalk. I made a mistake and she had to walk around because of it. Still her anger towards me did her far more harm that it did me.
So remember to stop and consider if things are really worth being upset over. If you are on the receiving end, remember if you try to fight anger with anger you are only going to make things worse for you. Sure in the short term it may feel good to yell back or even worse. In the long term however, we are doing more harm to ourselves. Do your best to develop a sense of compassion. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Feel free to share this post as well as any ideas you have on developing compassion.