” We have to do the best we are capable of. That is our sacred human responsibility.” ~Albert Einstein
Today I was feeling pretty good when I got a local phone call. I usually won’t pick up a call unless I know who it is, but it was local so I thought I would give it a go. It was a call from someone who had a professional miscommunication with me. She started out telling me how much trouble I was causing her and then blame and crisis poured out of her mouth for a minute. I calmly said, “I misunderstood what you wanted.” I attempted to explain to her the miscommunication, but she was strident and kept interrupting, so I let that go. She did her thing for another minute. I again said, “It was a misunderstanding.” Again, blame for a few seconds. I smiled and told her that I was sorry there was a misunderstanding. She went on to say every encounter with me was a problem and trouble for her. I thought about saying that our encounters were not a problem, but that her response to them was a problem. For her, not for me. But, I didn’t. I would have said it with love, but I didn’t think it was the right thing to say to her at that time.
Whenever we have an encounter with someone, no matter how insignificant it may seem, we have an opportunity to see them as love or see them with fear. We can have negative feelings towards them if they attack us or we can understand that they are acting out of fear. I believe this woman feared looking like she was inept, or like someone who wasn’t in charge or wasn’t in control. Whatever her reasons, and it doesn’t matter, she was obviously upset.
In my conversation with her I was able to remain calm and feel love towards her. Interestingly, when I got off of the phone I immediately started a story in my head about her which made me appear superior. I recognized what I was doing and stopped the thoughts. I occasionally returned to the story, but was able to see what I was doing in my mind pretty quickly and stop the judgmental thoughts again and see her with love.
Then I noticed that I chastised myself mentally for thinking that way. Why did I have to judge? Why couldn’t I be love all the time? Then I recognized that I was judging myself. I remembered that ten years ago I could have made this into an all day anger fest. I would have told everyone I could get to listen to me how crazy this woman behaved and my friends would have reinforced to me what a jerk she was and validated my negative feelings. I’ll call my response to her phone call progress. Being mindful is not easy until you have practiced it for a while. But, it is so worth it!
I could have spent a miserable day feeling like the victim of a harsh shrew’s viperous tongue. I would have been angry and spewing my own vitriol all over any poor soul who crossed my path. Instead I made progress, recognized my judgment of her as well as my self judgment and, in the end, spent a day without much drama at all.
The story does not end here though. I had to meet the woman a little later to sign some papers. Before I left my house I noticed a document on my desk that would be helpful to her. I picked it up and brought it with me. When I saw her arrive at our meeting place I gave her a big smile. I offered her the document and she said she already had it. I smiled and signed her papers. She began to apologize for all the fuss and blamed it on her professional superiors. I just smiled and told her not to worry about it. We parted as friends, as far as I could tell.
Will she recognize the cause of her fears, will she see her negative behaviors and reactions? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter. I made progress. I acted with love (for the most part) and didn’t allow negative thoughts to ruin my day. I allowed myself to be imperfect without condemning myself. And, bonus, I got a post out of it!
When my kids were little I would always tell them that the most important thing to be is kind. When we are acting with kindness, it is love. We can never assume what anyone else is going through. We can only be responsible for our own behavior and our own reactions to others’ behavior. Respond to fear with kindness and love. You’ll feel better for it. I promise.
Some non-judgy affirmations:
- I am kind to all people and never take their behavior personally.
- I am kind to all beings.
- I do not judge others or myself.
- I take responsibility for my actions without shame or guilt.
- I am aware of my emotions and use them to adjust my thinking.
- I love all beings.
Imagine a confrontation or conflict you have had recently with someone. Imagine it from the beginning, but see yourself responding to the other person with love and kindness. How do you feel?