I know I’m not the only one who gets frustrated by rude behavior* that can confront us on a daily basis: getting cut off by another driver, watching a customer disrespect a cashier, or hearing someone’s very loud conversation on their cell phone (next to a sign that says “Please, No Cell Phones.”)
I don’t know why, but I feel it’s my place to put on a cape and bring some type of small justice to what I see as an unfair situation. When really, for the sake of my own health (and sanity), I need to fold my cape back up and stow it away.
Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you ever feel as I do when you witness rude behavior? Despite these feelings, often the smartest and best move is to keep our mouths shut and not get involved. But what about that rush of anger and irritation? That desire for justice? The anxiety that we can’t “right” something we see as “wrong”?
I’ve found that a beautiful perk of adulting is that I see more and more that there is always another side of the story. Oftentimes, situations are not black and white no matter how much they seem to be. Over the years, I’ve learned to be less judgmental of other people, less angry, and instead, let compassion overwhelm me. I want to hold hands with compassion and take it everywhere I go. Because I like myself more when I have compassion for others.
So, I now intentionally use these three reminders to keep me more compassionate:
1. While any behavior may appear strange, disrespectful, or incredibly unacceptable, I remind myself there is always more to the situation than just what I’m seeing.
When I find myself annoyed with an impolite stranger, the best thing for me is to try to think about a reason they might be acting rude. The person might be in physical pain, have just lost a loved one, or be in the middle of a divorce. The list of reasons as to why people do what they do is endless. I still laugh when think of a bumper sticker I once saw that said, “I’m speeding because I have to poop.” But hey, it could be true. We’ve all been there!
Does a “good” excuse justify speeding or any form of aggressive behavior? Mostly likely not. But all this helps me to remember that while the other person might not be right, I can’t control their behavior and maybe, just maybe, they need my compassion more than my condemnation. (And most importantly, even if they aren’t controlling their behavior, I have the power to control mine!)
2. I remind myself that I’m doing my own health a favor when I keep anger and judgement at arm’s length.
Even just getting upset for another person is a type of involvement, and I believe it can be unhealthy for me or really anyone. Because what ultimately happens is a change in mindset and attitude. My mood moves into something more morose, more anxious and I start validating these feelings with thoughts like, “Here’s yet another reason the world is such a dreadful place…” Experiencing anger does nothing but hurt my mental health and that’s just not worth it. We can’t help the sudden thoughts and emotions that might come to us, but we can choose to let them linger. That’s where we have some authority, and we can turn our thoughts to something not as emotionally draining, but still true.
3. I remind myself of this truth: I don’t really know what is best for others.
As much as I like to think I know how to right a wrong that I observe, I am just not that knowledgeable. The world we live in is so complex. People are made up of layers upon layers of life experiences and behaviors that mingle with one another and influence each other in ways I will never see and know.
Bottom line: When a person seems rude without reason? Or plain mean? Unfair? Having these three reminders keep me calm and less negative. Without pulling out a cape of justice, I think we can still have a victory when we have less anger and negativity. Plus, when we exercise control over our minds, it’s incredibly empowering. It’s self-control at its finest. It embraces compassion, leads to intentional living, and ultimately, more healthy, peaceful living. And I don’t know about you, but I can certainly use more of that.
*Clearly I’m not talking about behavior that needs police/authorities called into action.
Creator of Love, Auntie.