Updated: Jun 13, 2022
While waiting in line with a friend at a local barbecue spot. There was a man; much larger than myself, and his son in line behind us being obnoxious and goofing around. I didn't think much of it until he decided to bring me in on his "fun". He very obviously flipped my backside with his finger and then pretended like it was not him when I turned and confronted him about it. I sternly told him not to touch me but realized too late that this was his plan the whole time. He flipped a switch and went from 0-100 in an instant getting in my face and yelling at me for suggesting he was homosexual. I was trapped. He was looking for a fight and definitely did not pick on someone his own size.
For the rest of the day, I was seething! I could not stop thinking about all the things I should have or could have done or said to him. What a jerk! I felt so much hatred for the guy.
Not too long before this experience I was talking to a good friend about taking responsibility for everything in our lives and later, as I sat fuming in my car, this thought popped into my head, but I tried to push it out as quickly as it came.
"How am I supposed to take responsibility for the actions of such an idiot?"
"I literally did nothing to provoke him. I was just standing there, and he harassed me!"
I could not get the thought of "take responsibility" out of my head, and I realized that the way I was responding was my choice, and that I was allowing the actions of another person to completely ruin my day. Giving someone that much control over my life also did not sound very great.
I respond in anger and hate to protect myself:
As I started trying to take responsibility for how I felt and how I was responding, I would instantly slip back into "yeah, but he…", or "It wasn't my fault", or "I hate that guy so much" and I realized that I respond this way to try and stay 'in control' or 'on top' of the situation. Taking responsibility in this moment for me meant allowing myself to admit that I was hurting, and I felt taken advantage of. Nobody wants to feel that way, so we respond with anger and hate in an attempt to stay in control.
I am really good at justifying my emotions:
Let me be clear here. I was completely justified feeling the way I felt. I did not do anything to provoke him, I WAS the victim in this story. I had every right to feel angry. Over the next couple of weeks, I started catching how often I did this. Someone would cut me off driving: "They put my safety in danger!". Someone would post something "outrageous" on social media: "How can they be so short sighted? They obviously are incompetent".
The word justify means: Show or prove to be right or reasonable. In theology it means: Declare or make righteous in the sight of God. This means that you will be able to find all the evidence you need to show or prove that you are right or being reasonable in the way you feel (or even worse, justifying these feelings in the name of God).
So you have compiled all the evidence, the decision has been made, there is no question, and you are right and justified to feel how you feel.
So what? What do you gain from being right? Just a whole lot of anger, resentment, and ultimately dissatisfaction.
I did not want to be someone who let the actions of others affect me so much:
After I started paying attention to it, it was crazy to me how often in my life I was doing this. It was multiple times a day. My brain would automatically give 'evidence' for my judgements of people, and I did not like what I saw. I realized that these types of experiences will continue to happen in my life, and I wanted to have more control over myself. I did not want to allow my happiness to be left in the hands of situations I had no control over. A positive example:
Later that week, I was going through the drive through at Wendy's and was trying to use a coupon when I got to the window. The guy at the window got upset at me saying that I was supposed to let him know beforehand when I ordered that I would be using a coupon. (The coupon did not change my order; it was just a discount code. I had been to this location many times and had always done it this way). Instead of arguing or pointing out he was wrong, I just apologized to him and said I would try and remember next time. He just slammed the window shut without taking payment or saying anything else.
I felt myself start to judge how terrible customer service that was but decided this time to give him the benefit of the doubt and thought "maybe he's had some rude people come by today". As I sat there waiting, it looked like he was the only one in the kitchen that day, and then I saw him bring the order of the car in front of me out to their pulled forward parked car. I realized that none of his employees were there that day, and he was doing everything by himself. When he finally got back to me, he just passed the food through the window and said "it's on me today".
Who knows if he would have done that anyways; this is not suggesting that your kindness will always be rewarded with free food. It is suggesting that you will be much happier choosing to take responsibility for how you feel, compared to allowing the actions of others to dictate that for you.
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