It is often an easy decision to make
As those of you who are regular readers of this column will know, I subscribe to the idea that life itself is a journey and that each of us is free to choose the path that we follow and how we interact with everyone that we meet on that journey, although a surprising number of us are in denial about this.
What I don’t do is spend much time judging those who have chosen a different path than myself when I encounter them, because I recognise that the only life that I really am an expert on is my own.
Realising that no one is really equipped to be sure that one path actually “is” better than the next, because it is physically impossible to actually live more than one life at a time, has led me to conclude that imagining that I am any better than my fellow man is largely a waste of time.
Controversial as it might be, taking this point of view has proved to be surprisingly liberating in that it has helped me, both to know myself better and to be more accepting and forgiving of others.
Am I capable of making mistakes, having a bad thought or being hurt by the words of another?
Of course I am. I am human and I come with a whole arsenal of human weaknesses including anger, fear and resentment — but I simply choose to indulge in them as little as possible.
More to the point, I have chosen not to inflict my human weaknesses on others because I have realised that almost every time I am tempted to act out, I am really just attempting to protect myself from feeling some sort of largely imagined pain.
I say “largely imagined” because once I stopped blindly reacting to situations, I realised two things.
First, most of the time when “bad behaviour” is directed towards me, the other person is even more afraid of “something” than I am.
Secondly, I realised that I was reacting negatively to their behaviour because I just wanted to avoid the controversy altogether.
I literally just wanted to do whatever it took to make it stop as fast as possible (which in retrospect I admit was rather self-centred).
My big breakthrough was realising that, rather than expressing anger or fear or trying to protect myself from the way that others behaved, it would be so much more effective to express patience and empathy and forgiveness.
After all, how many times had I made a mistake, or been frustrated or afraid? And what did I really want most at those times?
Simply for someone to listen to my point of view and help ease my suffering. That being the case, as I progress through my journey, how could I honestly expect others to be there for me or listen to me or forgive me if I myself am not accommodating and forgiving?
In short, it was an easy decision to make. Should you try to be more like me? I don’t know. Only you can answer that question for yourself.
• Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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