“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
― Chief Seattle
“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.“ ― Buddha
I can’t hold a grudge to save my life. As someone who does not harbor resentment well nor easily, the last few years of my life have at times felt like I was a student in a class I do not remember signing up for; How to Deal with Difficult People.
As especially tough part of the course for me: the section on managing unkind folks, kindly.
Not to be confused with someone who believes she is above holding grudges, I can fantasize about how good, freeing or vindicating it would feel if I could just say “take that”, plot my revenge, hold back my care or concern or just scream “you suck” in a variety of colorful versions and languages.
Even if I tell myself I should be less kind or even just not so pleasant, it is just not going to happen.
Do I have bad boundaries ? Am I unable to stick up for myself ?
No I really don’t think so, I just feel like I am going against my nature when the winds of resentment start threatening to storm.
For me, holding onto anger feels like holding my breath under water.
I am going against what makes me me if I If I let myself behave callously because of someone else’s unkind behavior; I end up finding that I am letting myself down even more than they ever could.
Unexpected, impersonal or random unkindness can be troubling, but I have found that most often it is in closer relationships with family, friends or colleagues that we walk away wounded most deeply.
Profoundly felt resentment and anger in interpersonal relationships often share a common source at their root: disappointment.
When someone is unaware of how their actions impact us, aggression in return will often only serve to make that person feel they were justified in treating us this way.
As long as someone can make me angry, when I know that this is how they roll, I have come to understand that I am still expecting them to change or still hoping they will realize the effect their behavior has on me.
If I am not ready to approach them with calm, and a sincere openness to listen what they will have to say in turn, then I know time will be on my side if I wait before expressing myself.
If time has taught me that an individual repeatedly shows no desire to understand anyone else’s experiences, it is time to drop the expectations.
What does it mean to have no expectations ? For me it means treating someone as if it were the first time we met, as if we were strangers, even if I have met them three hundred times.
How do I approach a stranger ? With caution and kindness. If I don’t feel comfortable, or they don’t interest me I move along with a smile and a sense of relief.
In absolute worst case scenarios, and these do exist, I am soothed by reminding myself, that I only have to spend an hour or at worse a few hours with this person, but they have to live inside their fear-filled, lonely world where only they matter 24/7.
Why does it suddenly seem like there are a lot more disagreeable people crossing my path ? Has something shifted in the biosphere ? Am I hanging out with the wrong crowd ? Probably not.
I think it is more that I am at a particularly demanding but average stage of life managing work, a young family and caring for older parents and as I juggle these roles, I have realized more than ever the difference a kind or unkind gesture makes.
Pleasant people who communicate well, return favors, take only what is theirs, are concerned with the impact of their behaviour on others, and say thank you are the team I cheer for.
Thankfully I am not alone on this team, and it is my experience that given a chance most of us want to be part of this posse as well.
But I have learned that no matter how much therapy we receive or we dispense, how many self-help books we read or we write, no matter how many hours we spend meditating, or the number of levels of mixed martial arts training levels we complete, we remain exposed as care, we love, and we so dearly wish to be cared for and loved in return.
So I remain vulnerable me.
26 Aug 2013