As I sit watching television, I begin to see certain themes that are present in the background of most TV shows. I see things that promote immediate self gratification and people acting out on impulse. If it feels good—as a Nike ad would read—just do it. The problem with that is that it desensitizes us to selfishness. It is as if we have become soldiers being trained to expect that everything we experience should be about us and our immediate feelings. Here’s a news flash: It’s not always all about you! I know this is earth-shattering news for many (including me). However, I constantly have to remind myself that I am part of a bigger world and it is revolving on an axis, not me.
Recently, I was talking with a co-worker. She mentioned that she was sitting in court for a traffic ticket. There was a man standing against the wall who was slightly bent over. She proceeded to offer him her seat when he snapped back in a slight growl, answering “No!” Of course she figured he was just a jerk and immediately voiced that opinion with the person sitting next to her, who agreed. The next one to be called in front of the magistrate was, lo and behold, the mean guy she had just exchanged words with. As he approached the podium, the magistrate noticed his facial grimace and forward leaning posture. He asked if the man was okay. The guy hesitated, before eventually replying he had pancreatic cancer. I’m told that the gravity of what he said fell over the room immediately.
I know my co-worker felt bad for having such negative feelings toward him after learning about the source of his pain. After hearing this, I was inspired to reflect on my own perspective towards others. I’m not justifying his bad behavior and saying that we should excuse those who choose to display it. I’m simply saying that I understand his reaction.
If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that although I don’t think of myself as a bad person, I have certainly had bad days. And I’m sure that I’ve (maybe even unknowingly) met people in an unpleasant way. I need to remind myself that we all carry around baggage from past experiences, and as I go throughout my day, I may run into people that may not be kind. Instead of taking in their negative feelings and allowing them to contaminate my thoughts and behavior, I will make an effort to understand that it’s not personal. I will challenge myself to stay positive and to treat people right in spite of how I am treated. Hoping that my kindness towards them is enough to soften their hardened exterior and move them closer to a place of change.
Have you had to turn the other cheek? If so, what say you?