Your Corner of Our World

I’ve been giving thought to how much pain there is in life and what we can do about it. There seems to be so many events that are too far out of reach for us to impact—focusing on them leads to despair.

Looking at national and world events we wonder how people can be so horrible to each other. There can be no debate that what appears in the news are the worst possible scenarios of man’s inhumanity to man. Having agreed on that, what can we learn from them?

When we bear witness to how much damage human beings can cause by their anger, we can either shake our heads in disgust, taking smug satisfaction in being superior to these perpetrators OR we can use the opportunity to examine how we interact in our own corner of the world.

If a news camera secretly followed you around on a typical day, how would the footage play to the general public? Would it show you spreading kindness and joy? Or are we just milder versions of what’s wrong with the world?

Do we engage our hearts in compassion or do we take every opportunity to engage our minds in judgment and our mouths in derision?

In our daily haste, we often take our anger and frustration out on others. We make it our personal crusade to fix what we deem to be wrong with those we encounter by pointing out their mistakes to them. This is sometimes referred to as “straightening them out,” and the recipients are often those in service positions or worse, our children. In other words, those who have to take it from us. We don’t like the way they treat us so how do we teach them to do it correctly? By berating them! There’s something tragically ironic about a scene in which one person screams at another, “You don’t know how to treat people!”

Do as I say, not as I do.

We justify mistreating people by the fact that they did it first. Isn’t that the foundation of almost every news story we read that causes us to shake our heads in dismay? Someone commits a heinous act believing it to be justified because they were mistreated.

The problem with retaliation, even when it is “mild,” is that you do not have the ability to know what’s behind the other person’s behavior. Would you treat them with such meanness if you knew they were suffering from depression? How about if you found out their child had recently died? Would it be okay to deride them if they’d been on their feet for ten hours, filling in for a sick co-worker?

So what can we do about how much pain there is in life? We can stop infecting others. We could have an immediate impact on our corner of the world if we did one simple thing: give others the benefit of the doubt. Assume that if someone is being unkind, they are in pain.

This doesn’t mean that you allow people to mistreat you. It does mean that when they do, you respond in the way you wish they would treat you instead of mirroring their unacceptable behavior.

I guess I’m naïve enough to think that if we can infect the world through negative behavior, we can cure what ails it world through acts of kindness. And the place to begin is where we stand.

I choose to focus on the person who allows me into his line of traffic. Or the sales clerk who goes out of her way to help me find something. How about the co-worker who says, “I know you’re busy, why don’t you let me bring back your lunch?”

It’s easy to be nice to people who are being nice to you. It’s harder to reach out to those who are not but they are the ones who need it the most.

The Law of Attraction dictates that you get more of what you focus on. By giving people the benefit of the doubt, you will attract those who will do the same for you and there will come a day when you need it.

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