- Chapter 14 -
DON'T LET SOMEONE ELSE
DETERMINE HOW YOU FEEL
YOU TREAT OTHERS
hile you are waiting in a traffic line to get on the expressway, and a driver cuts in front of you, just missing your fender and causing you to slam on your brakes, what is your reaction?
An interesting observation in life is: THE IMPORTANT THING IS NOT WHAT PEOPLE DO OR SAY TO YOU, BUT HOW YOU RESPOND. You have a choice. Under the circumstances described above, it is easy to get infuriated. "He can't get away with that!" "I'll show him!" And then you can be angry all day.
Or you can respond, "Why should I let the fact that he may have been abused as a kid influence how I feel for the day?" His is not a personal insult. It's a reflection of his anger and hatred toward the world, resulting in aggressive action which temporarily influenced your life. Your fender is not bent, and even if it were, consider the source and curb your response.
This is much easier done if it is some jerk in the traffic line, rather than someone close to us. "You don't know my wife/husband/child/roommate! He/she can really get to me!" It is impossible to be a human being and not encounter occasions when people say and do annoying or outrageous things. And it is impossible to be a human being and not have some reaction. It can be a matter of degree, however, because the statement is still true, "It's not what people do or say to you; it is how you respond." Sometimes, of course, they want to get to you. Why give them the satisfaction? And why let them determine how you feel for the day? No one can get to you unless you let them.
Equally important with regard to having somebody else determine how you feel for the day is the possibility that somebody else will determine how you treat others. This can be the result of having negative emotions spill over into important relationships, especially family. What a sad event, for example, when a parent, angered by what someone else did, takes out the emotion on a child.
Norman Rockwell expressed it well in his drawings. Panel 1) A man is screaming at another man who appears to be surprised and not expecting such an outburst. Panel 2) The second man is screaming at his wife who appears to be surprised and not expecting such an outburst. Panel 3) The wife is screaming at her son who appears surprised and not expecting such an outburst. Panel 4) The boy is screaming at his dog who appears surprised and not expecting such an outburst. The dog, poor creature, has nowhere to go to relieve his emotion.
A good rule in life is to act in a friendly and helpful way to others, and the chances are they will respond in the same way. A simpler expression is sometimes more effective, especially with children: YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE. OR, YOU GET WHAT YOU INVITE IN LIFE.
However, there are some occasions when others have not acted toward us as we have acted toward them. Enough deviations from the hope for reciprocal responses occur to discourage some people from following a course of action which works well in the long run. This is unfortunate and is another example of allowing other people to control one's actions.
Here is a description of an unexpected and inappropriate response on the part of another person. I saw a man digging food out of a dumpster and putting it in little bags. I went up to him and said, "I have had some good fortune. May I share it with you?" and offered him a $20 bill.
He did not answer, so I repeated myself. He answered, "No, you may not."
Mystified as to why he would not accept the money, I asked, "Why?"
"Because you are a ----------," and there followed a string of profanities. Then he said, "What's more, you are going to be in jail tonight."
Disconcerted, I thought I was being friendly when I smiled, waved good-bye, and said, "I'll think of you when I am in jail."
That set off this unfortunate mentally-ill man, and as I drove away, I could see his contorted face as he hurled a string of curse words at me.
Should I give up wanting to help people because of this experience with a paranoid? Certainly not. But as we think about it, we can all recall less dramatic but nevertheless unfortunate reactions from people, and even those from whom we should have expected different responses. Wisdom dictates that we not let those experiences discourage us.
Don't let someone else determine how you feel for the day or how you treat other people.