All too often, we have some sort of conflict with another person when we’re out and about and immediately we begin to play the blame game. Something is said or done that we dislike and right away we begin judging the other person negatively. Let’s say you’re at a restaurant and order your meal; your waiter isn’t very personable so you may judge them as rude and inconsiderate.
When the waiter comes back with your meal later than you think it should, your waiter becomes not only rude and inconsiderate, but incompetent and lazy. To top things off, they mess up your order: you had asked for extra tomatoes and no onions, but you were given no tomatoes and extra onions. When you tell him of his mistake, the waiter takes back your plate but is unapologetic and perhaps even slightly irritable. ‘He’s the one who messed up!’ you may think. ‘He should be apologizing!’ Many of us then go on to make several others judgments or assumptions. “This guy is an asshole!” or “This guy is condescending and unkind and should not be a waiter!”
Though these thoughts may seem legit or accurate when you have them, they are not based in reality. In actuality, our thoughts about other people are by and large a reflection of our own attitudes and judgments. Using the waiter example, if we are ticked off by his behavior, we are on some level taking it personally. In order words, we feel like he is purposefully not being a good waiter and giving us poor service. This angers us because we feel like it is a personal attack or like we are getting less than what we deserve.
Once we begin to understand, however, that the waiter is an ordinary human being like you and I who always has problems and challenges, we can begin to lighten up a bit. If the waiter is rude or slow to serve us, this does not mean he is a bad or mean person, but rather that something is going on with him to cause him to act in this way. Maybe he is having relationship problems or just found out it will cost him $2,000 to fix his car and he doesn’t have the money. Maybe he is facing an addiction problem or feels like something is missing in his life and can’t figure out what it is. Or maybe he’s not facing any major difficulties at present, but simply lacks inner peace and contentment.
In fact, the root of all unkind behavior can be traced to an individual’s lack of inner peace and contentment. There are plenty of people going through major life difficulties but who still treat others with love and kindness. What allows such people to be able to stay kind and loving amidst life challenges? Their attitude, their inner state of being, which in this case, is one of peace. You see, those among us who are the happiest and most at peace with ourselves and our lives are also the most friendly and personable. Happy people just exude kindness- they don’t have to try, it just flows out naturally. You can bet the man who snarls at you at the bank is not at his happiest or most peaceful state.
Rather than judge or respond negatively to those who speak or act in unfriendly or hostile ways, it’s best to recognize that the words and actions from these individuals have nothing to do with you. This is a really important concept to understand, so I repeat: the words and actions of others have nothing to do with you. On the contrary, the words and actions of others have everything to do with what is going on inside of them. If there is peace, joy, and contentment within a person, words and actions of kindness and love are what you are going to see the vast majority of the time. If, on the other hand, an individual holds much inner turmoil and has not yet found inner peace or contentment, their words and actions will reflect this and take on a negative quality.
What can you do to help?
First, recognizing that each person is doing his or her best in any given moment is very helpful here. When you judge others in negative ways, you are not only adding to the negative state of the other person, but you are create discord and negativity within yourself.
Further, remembering not to take the words or actions of others personally is crucial. There is a higher reason for their words and behavior that has nothing to do with you.
From here, we can see that there is a deeper cause to the person’s behavior and though we not know the details of this person’s life, we know that something within them is causing them suffering. As humans, we all wish to avoid suffering and to feel happiness, so when we realize that another is suffering and unable to experience joy, we can begin to feel compassion for this person.
When I come across irritable, unhappy, and angry individuals, I often send love their way. Not only does this ensure I won’t be adding to their negative energy, but it keeps me in a positive state and creates an opportunity for the other person to lift a bit out of their unhappiness if they are willing and ready. Sometimes I don’t see much effect from doing this practice, but other times, I have seen a person go from cranky and impatient to kind and joyful. It’s all about how strong the energy is that you carry and that you’re sending about of course about how willing the other person is to receive it. But even the most stubborn of folks will often feel some upliftment when confronted by a positive, friendly person and sent positive energy.
One great practice I have picked up over the years is to send “peace and blessings” to people I come across whether driving, in a store, or wherever. I focus on the person and say “peace and blessings” silently to myself and imagine that these qualities are being sent to the other person from my heart or from the universe. A great time to practice this for many people is when driving, as many of us have the tendency to yell or feel angry because of what other drivers are doing or not doing.
By sending peace and blessings to the slow waiter or the guy who cut you off, you are lifting others to a higher state or at the least you are not bringing them into further negativity. But perhaps most importantly, you are keeping yourself in a state of peace and love rather than letting yourself be brought down by the negative energy around you. If you wish for more peace and more love in the world, do whatever it takes to live in a state of peace and love yourself. Be the peace and love you want to see, and watch with astonishment how the world around you becomes more peaceful and loving.