Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil… kind of
How many times a day or a week or even a year do we say: “I just don’t understand why…” or “I would never have done that” or even “why didn’t they do it this way?”
I know I do it quite a lot and within a range or circumstances, but when you really think about it; how harmful are these seemingly innocuous sentences? At the root of it all are two things; right and wrong.
Let’s break those down for a second, we generally all strive to do the right thing over the wrong thing, but how often do we decide that another person made the ‘wrong’ decision or if not wrong the ‘bad’ decision. Maybe you think that it’s just a part of a normal day, one of those things that we all say and feel, sometimes it’s just easier to decided than another persons actions are asinine rather than as a result of ill informed thought or consideration. I am not talking about morality, although that is often an issue, I am ultimately talking about:
“I don’t understand why…” doesn’t seem so bad on its own, but think about the conversation and justification process that inevitably ensues. Someone else has made a decision that you cannot fathom the thought process for, in the most memorable circumstances this decision is to your detriment and it makes you instantly stressed, outraged or just irritated. “I would never…” now this one is surely worse, you are directly saying I judge this persons actions based on the fact that my own intellectual or moral compass (or just plain old common sense) would never let me follow the path that they have, which brings me on to…
If we are clear that we are all unique, individual and have been subject to a myriad of differing circumstances throughout each of our lives, it’s actually more shocking that you might ever do or think in the same way as another person than in opposition. To be honest if I have used this sentence, it is usually closely followed by an example of when I have been in the same situation as the person I am busy judging and I reacted differently – the ‘right’ way.
The connection between these is the laboured process of justification and ultimately trying to make ourselves happier but usually in the short term only. These situations happen in every facet of life, be it in work or at home. I know I try to rarely discuss politics with my friends and family because sometimes the difference in opinion is shocking to me, and unsettling. So ignorance is bliss(?)
How many times does this actually work out well? I am not saying acceptance is easy, it’s not, and justification is often part of the acceptance process. How harmful is it actually, because when does it ever do us any good to ultimately say “I am better than that person in this regard” and for that matter, it doesn’t do our relationship better with that person. It opens up a black hole where-by we sideline every bad decision we think they have made (that affect us at least) goes to hide. It’s not even really a black hole, more of a cubby hole because if we are honest as soon as another shocking decision is made – there is the last one, coming back to haunt our good opinion of this person!
For me personally I am (during this stage of my life at least) a bit of a stickler for the rules, that isn’t to say I am a stick in the mud – I understand that sometimes it’s easier to go around an issue than through the rules to get to the other side. However something I really struggle with, is other people’s judgement, be it about me or about something we both have a bearing on. I will always try to be honest, I don’t mind curving the truth but I can never bring myself to be outright dishonest, even in so called white lies. I always take things at face value, or at least I try to, so when I have done what I thought was the right thing in the right way, and another person has completely disregarded and to a point made my actions pointless, I feel angry, upset and unbalanced. I really struggle to reconcile myself with the situation at hand. I wouldn’t have done anything differently but now I feel so helpless. So how do we regain our balance and set things back to a measured pace? For me it’s organisation, which can sometimes make this very issue worse but it is how I have taught myself to cope. It’s how I keep this side of the anxiety because if I allow myself to tip to far I will inevitably topple. I take every single thought and task order them systematically. I consider and and I make a decision, a steadfast decision that I must stick to or else the toppling threat becomes ever more probable.
There are no rules to follow that might help give us a brighter and lighter outlook, whatever point on the scale you might be, but for me this is what I try:
1. Empathy – Everyone has anxiety – some people are able to cope with it every day as a relatively normal issue, just like sadness. For other people it is a crippling experience, foreboded by an ever present fear of the worst outcome – an anxiety attack. Sometimes this anxiety can reveal itself in odd and sometimes difficult to deal with ways. Snappiness or anger, stubbornness or indifference, don’t take what is reactionary to heart.
2. Kindness – Treat others as you wish to be treated – if we are honest, we probably all find it hard when we are told to do something a different way. Especially when your way and their way produce the same result. So be kind to them and be kind to yourself, it’s ok to be different. Sometimes this is one of those times that whilst still being honest, you can be clever about your approach. If it makes another person happier or calmer to believe you have got to point A – B via point C, let them believe that you have whilst actually still going down your own route.
3. Acceptance – Take a breath and say Ok – if you can agree that you are doing your best, other people probably are too. Again just because they don’t exhibit the same markers of acceptance and progression that you do, doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting their own battle and reaching acceptance in their own time and in their own way. It might frustrate you, but why are you worried about them when you have your own demons to fight.
4. Imagination – Think outside the box – sometimes not amount of being kind, offering encouragement and clear statements will produce the result you were hoping for, so find another way to be at one with any given situation. Don’t let the frustration others are exhibiting get you down, look at it from a different perspective, maybe even their perspective and find a new way forward.
In short, walking a mile in the shoes of another before you make a snap judgment based on a reactionary situation, it might actually be very eye opening. It can be hard for people to open up, and they might not want other people to know about their struggles in fear of seeming weak. Or you could be like me and feel openness is important for your own functionality and progression, but I know that some people find that extremely hard to bear. I can honestly say I understand, when I am in a good place and someone in my life is in a place of struggle and darkness, I often want to run away and hide from it. I am familiar with the darkness and don’t want it spoiling my time in the light, but we have to have the strength to help our loved ones, they need to know that you are there with your light and you are saying “come this way”. It will bring your closer together.
It comes down to those ingrained words again, right vs wrong, good vs bad, well for the most part (tyranny and psychopathy excluded) they’re kind of subjective, some people like to follow the rules, some people have tried and found the rules failed them, so they’ve created their own set of rules. Not to sound like a Kenneth Branagh movie but in general if we have courage and are kind to others, we will find it much easier to treat ourselves the same way.