A few days ago I was chatting with a good friend over a drink in the pub. It was a Friday night and the idea was to have a pleasant drink or two and unwind from the week. Except my friend wasn’t unwinding, she was winding up all over again. She was telling me about an incident in a shop, with a complete stranger, who had accused her of pushing in ahead of her turn. My friend relayed to me, in great detail and rising indignation and anger of the reasons why this was unjust and inappropriate behaviour on the part of the stranger, especially in the light of their actions in the run up.
To me, on the outside, its seemed so insignificant, a minor misunderstanding, and I wondered fleetingly if somewhere else, a parallel story from the strangers perspective was being told with equal indignation and anger to some friend willing to listen. But then I caught myself and heard the judgements I was making of my friend during this story (“how can they get so wound up over such a little thing”) and realised I was doing exactly the same!
But it did set me thinking about the pain we cause ourselves, and others around us caught in the fall out, by holding on to the fantasy of how we believe others should behave. When we blame others, or judge them for being rude, inconsiderate, lazy, thoughtless, dull and arrogant we end up hurt, angry, upset, disappointed, frustrated. And this will never change until we realise that the other person is not the problem; it’s our own reaction that’s the problem. We can’t change or control someone else, no matter how much we wish we could or delude ourselves its possible. But we can control and change how we choose to respond.
We can become so attached to the idea about how others should be, an expectation that is unlikely to ever measure up to reality, that we forget to focus on the one thing we do have control and responsibility for – our own attitude and behaviour.
Now this isn’t to say that we then condone or agree with someone else’s poor behaviour, but holding on to the attachment of how they should be instead only hurts us – it doesn’t change the reality of events. My friend getting wound up and angry again in recounting the situation to me in the pub did not bring some epiphany to the stranger such that they never behaved that way again or saw the error of their ways. Neither was it cathartic to my friend – it just meant she felt angry and hurt twice, once at the time, and again in the reliving, and our evening in the pub was less relaxing than I’d hoped – but I guess that’s just my disappointment from holding on to MY attachment of how the evening SHOULD have been!!