Most of people take way too many things way too seriously. Someone can exhibit a behaviour a single time, and yet people will completely revise their opinion of another person, as though some deep dark secret has been revealed. In truth, all that’s been revealed is our own twisted sense of reality.
The truth is, people get tired. And hungry. Or we can be ill in some stressful way others can’t see. Or maybe we’re on a medication that’s challenging. Maybe we’re struggling because we’re recovering from an addiction. Maybe we have a ‘disorder’ like Tourette’s, or Autism, but we are otherwise completely fine. Or maybe we’ve had a horrible experience in the past and our a current situation is reminding us of it. Simply put: there’s a lot of legitimate reasons for people to respond in a hostile manner to simple things.
Notably, almost none of those things will have anything to do with anyone else. A lack of food or sleep will actually impact blood and brain chemistry. Ruminating thoughts will wear us out emotionally, making us much more sensitive and reactive. Maybe we’ve have had several disappointing experiences recently and other people just happen to be witnessing the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Or maybe, deep down, a person can just be scared, and what we’ve taken as anger, is actually fear.
Of course, all of us would love to be completely free. We would love to be able to just feel how we feel. Yet, we all know we have to assume some level of responsibility and personal control in order to successfully cooperate and live with others. But that does not mean we have to be prudish or Victorian, with strict rules and costs.
Patience, kindness and generosity do lubricate a society rather nicely. Everyone wins if everyone is being actively compassionate with each other. And this means allowing others and ourselves be human. If we are demanding perfection from ourselves or others we’re sure to make ourselves angry and depressed. And who wants to live in a society filled with with angry depressed people?
We need to have thicker skin. If someone’s usually decent and now they’re rude, or lashing out, then we’re better to presume they’re struggling than to presume we’re being attacked. But that’s only because egos tend to think everything is about us. But if we skipped making a judgment, we might recognize that someone needs a helping hand. Then we can use our personal strength and understanding to move past their words and focus on what we and the other person have in common.
Far from exposing some dark truth, angry words are wrought under torture, and are therefore untrustworthy. People vent off their anger, and when we do we’re all capable of saying things we absolutely do not believe or mean. In many cases the truth is not even what’s important to us—its that our statement hurts the other person, so that they might feel what we are feeling. These are agonized attempts to feel equal, or connected.
As loud and intense and relentless as a human being can be in a state of struggle, it can still just be how they’re feeling right now. In an short time they could just as easily be focused on something more appealing, and all of their opinions will have subsequently changed.
All this being the case, let us all starting letting others—and ourselves—have our moments. If we know we’re hungry and grumpy, then sure: we can let people know to watch out. But if we slip and snap at someone, let’s apologize as soon as we can, but otherwise let’s not beat ourselves up over low moments. Everyone will do things like that at various times in their life, it’s simply human. So we must all remember to relax and be kind to ourselves.
And while we are being kind to ourselves, we should also extend that kindness to others. We should be wary about judging others when we do not know their reality. As much as possible we are best to all do our best to take very little of what happens around us personally. After all, our boss might have only spoken to us sharply because she really needs a cheese burger. And that’s nothing we should be spending our lunch hour worrying about. If anything, we’re better to just invite the boss to lunch.
There’s a lot of very legitimate reasons for people to be temporarily unreasonable. Let’s give each other that freedom so that we can all enjoy that freedom when we need it. If we all do that, the world will be a much more peaceful place.
I do hope you’ll join me in lowering our demands for ideal behaviour, so that we can create more space in our lives for the tolerance and understanding that keeps society feeling understood, appreciatiated, and connected. Have a wonderful day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.