While we all endure pain in its various forms from time to time, whether emotional or physical, our responses tend to vary depending on the cause or source of our pain. If we hurt our foot against a piece of furniture we do not kick at the furniture in anger. If we are injured, say in an accident, we tend to be very protective of the injured area.
However, if we have been hurt by someone we tend to lash out at those who we believe to be the source of our hurt. Unfortunately, when we cannot readily identify or reach to the source of our hurt, we instead tend to lash out at others. This is because our level of tolerance of others becomes impaired due to our emotional state, thereby putting us in a defensive mindset aimed at self preservation. In such a state, the wrong word or action can send someone careening off the cliff of self-control.
So next time you feel like lashing out at someone just pause long enough to consider your emotional state, and ask yourself: am I directing my anger at the correct person? If not then is it fair to ‘lash out’ at him/her?
Conversely, it is worth being aware that if someone lashes out at you for no apparent reason, it might just be that they have been hurt by someone else, and a response of love and patience might be just what they need to put their hurt into the correct perspective, or perhaps even to assist in healing their hurt.
Do you ever encounter situations where you find yourself quietly asking for, or wishing you had, more patience? My guess is that your initial thought is “Don’t we all!” And I suspect you would be correct.
If we are at a place where we believe we are supremely patient, I suspect we simply have not encountered the right set of circumstances that really stretch our limits, challenging our bloated sense of the depth of our patience. You see, the strongest and most patient among us will acknowledge that such ‘patience’ and strength only come from exposure to situations, which, when they have passed, result in an expansion in our capacity to better handle similar situations in the future.
We cannot develop patience by being shielded from bad experiences; neither can we develop strength from merely imagining ourselves in hypothetical situations, or even from hearing about other people’s struggles and triumphs. Patience and strength are personal fruits of practical, lived experiences.
To recognize we are not as patient as we need to be, is to acknowledge that we are aware that things could always have been worse. However, to actually ask or pray for such patience, when genuinely done, is to actually INVITE such hardships – TESTS – the likes of which we have never experienced before! Or perhaps we have encountered such tests before, but never really learned the lessons they were teaching us.
Why do you think two individuals, facing the exact set of circumstances, can end up responding in such disparate ways with disparate impacts? Well, temperament might play a role in this but under the right set of circumstances even temperament will not be sufficient. I suspect that a great determinant of this difference in response and impact has to do with past experiences – or lack thereof – to which these individuals would have been exposed.
Notwithstanding the value of experience, Patience is not a destination that one can say they have reached. Instead it is a constantly evolving capacity that will continue to be expanded as we are exposed to situations that test and stretch us. Increased patience is an excellent thing to strive for; however, in the quest for patience do not forget to ask for wisdom to navigate the challenges, and the correct mindset to help us embrace these challenges when they come, “…knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience…” – James 1:3 (NKJV).
While developing patience does not only result from actual victories won, it requires actually facing and enduring the challenges that we encounter, which provide the ‘lived experience’ we need to gain the benefit of increased patience.
You could perhaps call it ‘the Cliche of the century’ but it still remains true: everyone is different. No two persons will have the same combination of experiences, traits and genes that will allow one to be a replica of the other. Our values will therefore be different, and our expectations will be different.
To try forcing our views and values on someone else, or setting our expectations of others based on our own is therefore futile, and perhaps even silly.
I suggest that our best option in effecting change, is to BE the change we want to see in others. If we value respect, hard work, honesty, strong relationships, or whatever the case may be, then our best bet is to demonstrate these values by practicing them. We will find that it is the consistency of our actions that has the greatest impact, not the loudness of our ‘preaching.’
People see, experience and interpret things through the lens of their own experiences. I believe it is important for each of us to be self aware – having a good understanding of ourself, and to seek to recognize that we do not need to understand where another person is coming from in order to respect their right to be different, or to act different.
We usually claim the right to having our own opinions about things, and will defend that vigorously. Others have equal right to do so as well.
As we approach the new year, how about striving to be more self-aware, supportive, patient, respectful and tolerant of others while celebrating our differences. Then witness how beautiful the results would be!
We are all in this journey called life together, each of us being unique – just like everybody else.