Too many, too many times have I spoken harshly or been impatient with others because *I* am stressed out, or *I* don’t have the time to slow down, or *I* am just so focused on myself that other people seem like foreign obstacles dotting the tunnel vision of my busyness.
Too many times do I feel my heart break as I respond a little too coldly to another person’s kind or innocent question. Times when I feel overwhelmed or overburdened, or worried, or the like…that I speak unkindly out of fear that I’m not going to get to where I’m trying to go, or that things aren’t going to get done, or that things might not turn out the way I wish that they would, or if someone does something that bothers me.
It is these times when I know that I am too focused on myself, and not focused enough on trusting, being patient, and asking myself how I can make someone else’s day a little bit brighter? Making the effort to respond with kindness and enthusiasm when you aren’t feeling 100% up to speed is not easy. Many times, it feels impossible. But think about how the following 2 scenarios affect our own day:
You’re a cashier at a gas station, and the patron at the counter is buying a soda. You’re in a pretty good mood, and you decide to smile and ask the patron,
“Hows your day goin? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?”
They respond quickly and sharply without even looking up.
“No – Not really – I’m moving.” Their tone cuts your inquiry into a a few large shards that fall quickly into a heap on the floor. Your mood instantly plummets and you feel hit with their negative energy, a little stunned, and as they walk away, you feel a wave of sadness and wonder why you even put yourself out on a limb to ask a stranger a question about their day in the first place.
The patron was in a hurry, feeling rushed with many worries on their mind…which of course you didn’t know, and only felt the aftereffects of their self-centered carelessness.
You’re walking down the street through a section of town saturated with young, homeless vagrants. They’re dirty, dressed in shades of gray and all sitting in collective pairs or heaps on the corresponding street corners. As you walk by, you hear one of them call out,
“Hey! You’re beautiful!“.
Their words, because you are feeling drained and tired – instead of hitting you like a kind compliment – hit you like an energy suck. A hungry arrow that has struck you from a person who wants your attention and has disguised their ploy for it in the form of calling out something flattering to you.
As you keep walking, wrapped up in yourself, your thoughts, and how this is affecting *you*, decide to turn around and explain to the young man that his compliment is not appreciated. His eyes light up as you approach him, until you open your mouth…
“Hi.” You say, “I just wanted you to know that when you yell stuff like that out – it doesn’t feel good. It feels like you’re trying to pull at me, and I’m just trying to walk down the street…” You expect him to understand, or ask a question, or learn something from this and hopefully not impart the same terrible fate upon another victim “just trying to walk down the street”.
Instead, a wave of shame comes over his eyes… and a strain of sadness that he attempts to hide, but you don’t think you’ve ever seen before…
“I’m sorry..” He says, quietly, and looks down – while his friend sitting close by is half smiling like a panting dog – trying not to laugh.
Your work is done there, and so you straighten up, and walk on – thinking “they’ll thank me later”.
But the further you get down the street…the more a red wave of that sadness you felt in the boy washes over you. And suddenly you feel his pain and are filled with the realization that you’ve made a grave mistake.
He wasn’t trying to pull at you. He was a homeless kid sitting on the corner, who saw a beautiful girl walk by, and thought that maybe if he could shout out and remind her of how beautiful she was – that he would make her day better.
But you assumed the worst, just because you were tired, or in a bad mood. You crushed him. And his attempt from his lowly position at the foot of a stop sign to make your day better. Because of your self-centered attitude, you successfully ruined someone else’s day and put a tiny dagger in their heart.
These are the thing we don’t often think about. When we cut someone off on the road, when we speak in a harsh tone to people we love, when we act impatiently in any way towards others…When we allow our self-centered reality to be what dictates how we treat other people…
It really is cause to hang our heads and ask ourselves why? And how? Are we going to change this… What are we going to do to condition ourselves to be graceful…kind…patient…loving…selfless…and true to what is right. We aren’t perfect and it isn’t always easy – but we can try. We create new habits by changing our old ones and conditioning ourselves to behave better.
But first we have to want to. And we have to be willing to try – to turn our train on its rusty tracks sometimes over and over again until success – even when its painful or our fragile egos writhe with resistance…
to ever be the way we are really meant to be.
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