God Built You To Last
Originally published on 9-29-13
A big part of my life is spent not reacting. I have made a conscious effort for about 10 years to not react. I don’t succeed 100% of the time, but as the sun rises again, so do I.
In moments large and small I give it my best effort not to react. Situations where it’s easiest to react are when: someone calls me an ugly name, someone cuts me off while speeding down an Austin highway, and when people have the need to be “right” all the time. Other times I get close to reacting (a.k.a. losing it) are when I break a crystal glass while washing it, or when I spill my freshly prepared coffee or when I get negative blog feedback. See below.
“Wow, you're a real stupid bitch. You look like you're pushing 35 yrs old and you haven't done shit but bank on your families businesses. No wonder you are alone. You have no chance of finding a man anytime soon unless you lower your standards of how great a man has to be while you are nothing special. You start a blog and want people to read it while you censor it. That is why you fail. Have fun being alone. Idiot.”- 2010?
I received this comment some time ago. I just couldn’t believe it. Why would anyone be so mean? I was really confused and all I wanted to say was, “Look at how cowardly you are, anonymously commenting on 26 year old's personal blog. You don’t know anything about me. What does it say about your life that someone’s blog who you may or may not know gets you so wound up?” But I didn’t say any of that. I didn’t say anything at all. I talked it over with my family and moved on. I try to take the road less traveled, even when I’m down and out. It’s the road less traveled because it isn’t easy, but the scenery is much better there.
Because I am human, because I err, because I like everyone one of you is a work in progress, I have reacted in dramatic ways that are more than cringe worthy. My most extreme reactions have left me feeling embarrassed at best and ridiculous and absolutely guilt ridden for years at worst.
I have yelled and screamed from my diaphragm and degraded people. I have wagged my finger in someone’s face. I have huffed and puffed and told people how unacceptable they are, and that’s just what I have done to strangers. Acts that I have committed to people who were closest to me were worse. I pushed buttons with a fire iron from a top my high horse. Have you ever been in an argument with someone where you know exactly what to say to infuriate someone and you hold it in your holster as ammunition. Then, when the moment is just right, and they have pissed you off just enough, you find that you are faster and more accurate on the draw than Dirty Harry? You want them to know, you are going to win even if it’s at all costs. You are going to be the victor. You are telling them both with your vile words and with your body language that they have erred and they’d better not even think of doing it again. In the moment, the person you are reacting toward deserves what is being sent their way. But 24 hours later, you’re the psychotic, ill willed person who couldn’t brush it off. It’s a lose/lose situation.
Pay back is a bitch. Most times for the person who is doing the payback. When you take it upon yourself to even out the situation with someone, you undoubtedly interfere with the plans of the universe. Once the dust settles, pay back, revenge, needling, call it what you will, is never as justified as it felt in the moment.
If someone (particularlya stranger) is doing something offensive to you, do you think that your reaction whether it be yelling, screaming, flipping them off or gossiping about them -- do you think that your negative actions have any chance of changing their behavior pattern? Let me save you some time, they don’t. You’re just wasting your time and energy.
So what should you do when someone is cuts in line, or when someone pushes into you on a sidewalk? Walk away. What should you do when your boyfriend needles you about the jewelry you like to wear? Should you needle him back? Should you say, “At least my jewelry is better than your ratty clothes?” No. Needling him back would only set your relationship down an unhealthy path. A possible solution would be to politely ask that his behavior change. What should you do if a customer tells you, “You’re so cold, you probably wouldn’t cry at your Mom’s funeral?” (I have heard a customer say this to one of my co-workers.) You should take a deep breath and realize this person is off their rocker and move on. 9 out of 10 dentists agree that taking a breath and moving on works like a charm.
Over time, not reacting gets easier, you won’t have to force yourself so much and it will come naturally. Start with the small things and inch toward your bigger triggers. Don’t worry; life will present you with ample opportunity to practice.
A few months back I was watching the movie, 42, a movie about the late great Jackie Robinson and his rise through minor and Major League Baseball in the 1940s. Jackie Robinson was a father, husband, son and the first African American player in Major League Baseball. He was hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers and Branch Rickey on the stipulation that he maintain his composure, as it was certain he was about to be thrown in whirlwind of vitriol. It was the 40’s remember? Blacks and Whites didn’t exactly sit around the camp fire together.
With strength behind his voice Mr. Robinson’s GM, Branch Rickey said, “Jackie, God built you to last. I need you to have the guts and grace to turn the other cheek.” Jackie had already spent some time with the Brooklyn Dodger’s farm team and he replied “But people are already booing me, throwing things at me, writing me hate mail, calling me a good for nothing….”
Even in the minor league, he had already faced moments that I hope most of us never face. Being called pejoratives was a multiple day occurrence for him, being turned away from hotels because the color of his skin was normal. Other teams refusing to play as long as a _________ was on the opposing team happened. Mr. Rickey never wavered, “You are the medicine. If you don’t have the guts and grace to turn the other cheek, we will not be successful.” The owner of the team basically said, “We need you to keep your head down, work hard and be gracious no matter what.”Woah. What a tall order!
It takes a great amount of fortitude and discipline not to react. To be annoyed or inconvenienced or even wronged and to have the guts and grace to turn the cheek will transform your life. It takes courage to live a life driven by peace and grace. The ability to float above the minutia will allow you more time and energy to be a better mother, friend, colleague, partner and leader. The cream always rises.
People do the best they can at the time. Afford them the space to make mistakes and then let their mistakes lie. There’s no need to belabor the fact that someone annoyed you or inconvenienced you or even wronged you. It’s already happened. Deal with it, learn from it and move on.
I need you to have the guts and grace to turn the other cheek. Your courageous behavior will bring you peace and change the world.