Maybe you slept through your alarm and it snowed three feet. You are not wearing gloves, and are using your window scraper to dig your car out from beneath a drift as fast as you can so you’re only moderately late to work. Then – SMACK. You slip on a patch of ice and you’re on your back, swearing up at the sky. THANK YOU ICE PATCH; MY PRIDE WASN’T INJURED ENOUGH UNTIL YOU SHOWED UP.
Maybe you had a long day, came home and completely incinerated your dinner. Now you’re starving and running around trying to open windows and salvage what’s left of your chicken enchiladas. Then the cherry on top – your smoke detector starts shrieking, almost as if it’s mocking you. THANK YOU SMOKE DETECTOR; I WAS NOT AWARE THAT DINNER WAS A MASSIVE FAIL UNTIL YOU WENT OFF.
We are good, decent people. None of us see ourselves as someone who would kick a person who is already on the ground, right? However, we are all at times the human equivalent of obnoxious smoke detectors and inconvenient ice patches, adding insult to injury.
We become impatient and condescending toward the stressed, busy waitress who mixed up our order. What would happen if, alternatively, we smiled and told her she was doing a great job? (So what if you got queso instead of salsa? The world will go on.)
We giggle with our friends at the gym about the newbie who is struggling on the treadmill. What if, instead, we gave him a high five and said, “Keep it up dude. You got this.” (It might be the difference in whether or not he comes back tomorrow.)
We race and tailgate the speeding driver who is weaving in and out of traffic. What would happen if we just let him go on ahead? (Maybe he’s going to the hospital. Not likely, but who cares?)
We feel insulted and cop an attitude with the cashier who rolled her eyes at us. Why not find something to compliment – her earrings, her hair, her agility with a barcode scanner… anything that will remind her that she lives in a friendly universe? (Maybe she’s worried about not having enough money to feed her family. Maybe the customer before you said something nasty to her.)
It’s not about deciding whether others deserve our good will. It’s not about putting people in their place. (The Universe takes care of that anyway.) It’s about stopping an insidious cycle that, left unchecked, will continue to feed itself and compound:
Hurt people hurt people.
Think about it…
Is being rude to an asshole going to make him nicer?
Is complaining about a depressed person going to help her feel better?
Is teaching a child to be civilized by hitting him setting a good example?
During the times in my life when I was hurting the most, the people who showed up with kindness, support, and understanding were the most instrumental in helping me get out of my dark, sludgy swamps of suckiness. Those who were rude, judgmental, or cruel just fed my story that the world was out to get me.
So come on you guys. We’ve all been on both sides of the road rage haven’t we? Don’t be the shrieking smoke detector, obnoxiously pointing out the obvious. Don’t be the slippery ice patch, bringing someone down who is already low. What is the most helpful, most useful thing to be?
Be the one YOU needed when YOU were in pain.