No one is impervious to life slapping them upside the head.
I’ve experienced so many examples of this in recent days. It’s been a recurring theme, and I’m working much harder on being patient with people. Even when they’re being complete and total wads. Notice I said ‘even when they’re being’ and not ‘even if they are.’ See? I’m already making progress.
That difference is apparently pretty crucial. I remember when I took Psychology in school. We were given an assignment one day that had a list of scenarios. Each question was either you doing something or someone else doing something. For instance: You’re running late to an appointment and as you enter the doctor’s office, you see someone approaching the door, you don’t hold the door for them.
And you had to check at the end whether the behavior was based on character or circumstance. We discuss what everyone checked and it’s shown that the questions in which you were the subject, the actions were marked circumstance, and the questions in which someone else was the subject, their behaviors were marked character. The assignment was meant to show how people will justify their actions and continue to think they are good people, but when the same behaviors are expressed by others, we perceive it as just being part of their nature.
I reconnected with an old friend recently. I’ve always admired her for her heart towards others and genuine kindness. We were catching up and she opened up to me about this past year in school being pretty trying for her, and how she lost touch with herself through the struggle. It shocked me to hear her say that. Not shocking in the sense that life is hard for everyone, I get that much. But it was just that I realized, wow, everybody truly needs a firm support base. Every last person. It might be in one’s nature to be kind, patient, generous, and what-have-you, but that doesn’t stop the surrounding negativity to take a toll. A serious toll. That hit me like a brick and broke me down for a minute. I know exactly where she was coming from. I know that place. That rut in your think space you sometimes find yourself stuck in from time to time. Where thoughts don’t stop coming at you, and progressively get darker the longer you dwell. It’s a debilitating weight hidden away in your head like a personal jail. And when you’re everyone else’s go-to for support, what are you supposed to do? It’s a silent suffering you have to endure with a smile. And the fact that my friend was going through that kind of mental strain really upset me. She, of all people, just…wow.
Then I was reminded of a talk I had with my uncle once.
Backstory! When I was a little kid, my aunt passed away suddenly, leaving behind my uncle and two cousins. It was a typical day, but she felt odd on the way home from picking up my little cousin, Julie, from daycare. She stopped at a friend’s house, and asked if her friend could hold Julie because something wasn’t right. Just as she handed my little cousin over, she dropped to the ground. My aunt was pronounced dead at the scene, and doctors were never able to provide a solid reasoning behind her sudden passing.
My uncle was called by authorities and told the news of his wife, and was asked to come identify her body. He told me about that time period between leaving the coroner’s office, and going to pick up my cousins. I mean, life is still calling for you. There was no time for grieving when there were children that needed to be taken care of, a job to manage, and other matters that needed his immediate attention.
Feeling numb and in a near catatonic state, but needing groceries for dinner, my uncle went to the store. He recounts every interaction he had with people in the store. Employees, fellow patrons. Frustrated and short of patience with him, as he failed to return smiles and was unresponsive to questions directed at him unless asked multiple times. They never could have known that he just came from identifying his deceased wife’s corpse, sure. But that’s exactly the point. You never know what somebody is dealing with. And we’re all dealing with something.
Everyone has heard this at least a million and one times, but here’s reminder #1,000,002. Let things go. Don’t return a mean spirit with more negativity. Could that person legitimately be an inconsiderate jerk or what-have-you? Sure! But it’s more likely circumstance. And who are you to decide that anyway? And what’s it worth when ‘giving them some of their own medicine’ would only justify their negative behaviors towards people? I can recall a number of times where a simple smile or gesture of kindness would have halted my belligerence when I was in a funky mood. But everyone has a point to prove. You know what? Screw your point. The real point is that every person on this earth responds to kindness exponentially faster than they would to negativity. So yeah, that was heavy on my mind lately.