Others’ Hidden Reality

Someone recently told me that you never know if someone is going into, in the middle of, or exiting a storm or personal catastrophe. In other words, that person who is rude, short, or inconsiderate with you may have some significant sh** going on in their lives.

Granted, personal catastrophe is completely subjective and variable. I know people who go from one storm to the next, seemingly without a break, and others who seem to have never seen a stormy day in their lives. Others’ catastrophes are not for us to judge. What’s easy for me may be hard for someone else, and visa versa. And most of the time, there’s no way to tell what’s going on internally after casual interaction with an obnoxious or annoying person.

Though it’s natural to take the slights by others personally and respond with outrage or resentment, it’s not a formula for psychological well-being. In his book, the Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Miguel Ruiz says that in order to have a life filled with love and happiness, we should never take slights personally.

Personal experience tells me this is often easier said than done.  My first inclination is to get mad and judgmental in response to a rude or inconsiderate person. However, imagining the possible storms past, present or future the other may be experiencing helps me to replace judgment with compassion.

For example, I recently learned about a mean woman who was used as a scapegoat as a child. No wonder she’s bitter; her world view since she was a child was based on the belief that life is unfair and harsh. Can you really blame her for being bitter? Should I take it personally if she’s mean to me? Instead, perhaps I can find compassion for the poor girl within who sees the world as a harsh and unloving place.

Sometimes the VIA forgiveness strength (authentichappiness.com) is discussed in terms of being a strength that is used episodically. I don’t think it is. I believe we can find forgiveness for all our daily and ongoing human flaws, small and large.   That forgiveness begins with myself and gives me the courage to look inward at my own shortcomings and trespasses. Like that scapegoat child, we carry our wounds forward and they influence us in ironically cruel and inexplicable ways as we continue to suffer their impact through our relationships and into adulthood. Forgiveness may allow us to examine and forgive those wounds in ourselves and others and find ways to accept and heal them.