In my February newsletter, I touched on the idea of not “biting the hook” when someone offers it to you. In case you missed it, I spoke about a recent experience I had at the airport. I was standing in line when an airport attendant barged in front of me and rudely pushed my bag back so she could get hers in line ahead of me-all without saying a word.
Now the old me would have raged-either silently or out loud-about this person’s rude behavior. My energy would have spiraled from joy and peace to anger, frustration, irritation, and indignation. I may have engaged the woman in an argument, asking her why she behaved so rudely toward me. And who knows where that would have led-probably to more angst and anger and heated discussion.
Instead, right then and there, something in my mind said, “Don’t bite the hook, Britta.” So I didn’t. I told myself that this person’s actions had nothing to do with me, which I’m sure they didn’t. All I said is, “You could be a little nicer, you know?” She gave me the worst look and said, “All you passengers are the same,” and pushed my bag again. A few moments later, she walked away and the gentleman behind me commented on how well I handled the situation. He said he would’ve lost it. I shared with him that I no longer want to be pulled into the worlds of others when they dump their bad energy around. Moments later, I had forgotten all about it, and I felt just as serene as I had before she came barreling by. What a victory for me!
This phrase and idea came from the audiobook entitled Don’t Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment, and Other Destructive Emotions, written by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun. What I’ve learned from Ms. Chodron is that every time someone intrudes on my sense of serenity-whether intentional or not-I have a choice in how I react. Most of us don’t think this is true. If someone is rude to us, we naturally react with anger, right? But Chodron teaches us that this is much like chewing our nails-a bad habit that we can get rid of. The source of the whole reaction is our sense of self-importance: How dare she do that to me? I’m an important person. She has no right to treat me that way.
When we look at it this way, it seems very logical that we would react with anger. But we can look at the situation from a different angle. I have come to believe that the person’s action has nothing to do with me. We are living in a very self-centered world right now, and most of us just assume-if she pushed past me, it’s about me! But what if she had a really bad day? What if she had to take care of a sick child that morning and now she is late for her flight? What if she’s getting a divorce, or just lost a parent?
Truth is, we have no idea what’s going on in the worlds of those around us, and what may be propelling them to act as they do. If we consider the possibilities, it’s often easier for us to act from a source of compassion, rather than from anger and indignation. Wouldn’t we want the same consideration if we were the ones acting rudely? And the wonderful thing about it is, when we act from compassion, we not only touch the other person with kindness, but that feeling radiates within us, helping us maintain our own sense of serenity. Magic!
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should allow people to walk all over us and treat us badly. The point is we have a choice: Is this event important enough to argue about? Is this something I really need to be assertive about? Do I need to stand up for myself, or would I have a better day if I just let it go? Would I feel better if I acted from compassion? These are choices we can make for the good of our inner sense of peace-and our good health. After all, the less stress and anger we feel, the healthier we feel.
I invite you to give it a try. Next time someone gives you the opportunity to react in anger, frustration, or indignation, see if you can change that habit and respond with compassion. I’d love to hear about your experiences!
We can change how we react to others. Have you tried it? Please let us know the results.
Photo courtesy the Momma2Molly via Flickr.com.