“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” E. F. SchumacheR
A few months ago, my life was so full I felt I was in constant motion. I was promoting my memoir Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholenesswith book signings, and I met a wonderful man and began a relationship with him. Combined with the usual things one has to take care of in life, I was fairly overwhelmed. As a result, I stopped going to the spiritual celebration I often attend on Sundays because I needed time for myself.
When We Feel Anger, We Need To Take A Breath
Then one day, I did attend the Sunday celebration, and as I entered the building, I ran into a young man I hardly knew who greeted me. “Good to see you. We haven’t seen you in a long time. You did your presentation and sold your books; then you disappeared.”
Wow! I’m sure my face was red with the anger I felt. How dare he suggest I just used my community in this way! I’d been there nearly every Sunday for eight years! I hardly knew this person and he knew nothing about my personal life. A dozen angry responses flashed through my mind—but I took a deep breath, decided to be direct, and said, “Well, I was really exhausted after I finished the book. Then I had to do all the promotional stuff, and I’m now in a relationship. I just needed time to take care of myself.”
Another person walked up to us and I was able to slip away, thankful that I’d been able to respond with an explanation that would perhaps make him realize his assumption had been wrong. I was also pleased with the restraint I’d shown. When I calmed down and thought about what he had said, I realized it reflected some issue he was struggling with.
Our Issues Are About The Ego
We all have our issues and when those buttons get punched, it is so easy to act in a way we will regret later. Inevitably, if we just react emotionally, without taking a deep breath first, we create more of a problem, making the problem “bigger, more complex, and more violent” as Schumacher suggests. Pausing to take that breath before responding reminds us we are in the moment and need to respond in the moment from the heart, not in response to our injured ego that wants revenge, attention or is responding to our past negative experiences.
In taking that breath, we are also affirming we want peace, and it may allow us to see the source of the discomfort for the other person. Taking a breath allows us to notice the tone of his voice or the expression on his face and that may guide us to respond in a positive way. I realized instantly that the young man who spoke to me knew nothing about my personal life, and that being open to him might create a bridge of understanding.
It Takes Courage To Be Peaceful When Others Are Not
I don’t agree with Schumacher that choosing the more peaceful path requires genius. I think it’s just common sense, but in a world where we’re still fighting wars and most television shows are about violence, it does sometimes take courage to take a different path. It takes courage in order to go against what those around us believe, especially if they are friends or family.
I taught high school English for years and was often appalled by the hateful things teens said to each other, even to their friends. When students chose not to engage in that disrespectful behavior, they were often ostracized, so the penalty for nonconformity was huge.
I once had a student ask me if I thought most people were good. I answered that, yes, I thought most people were basically good. She responded that she didn’t agree—she thought most people were mean. With that as the basis of her thinking, it is not surprising that she often responded hatefully to others. She wanted to hurt them before they hurt her.
Our Responses Reflect Who We Are
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter whether others are good or hateful. How we respond in every situation is our choice and we have to live with it. We have to decide who we want to be. Do we want to be the one who comes back with a more hateful remark or do we want to be the one who creates a bridge or lets the emotional charge from our opponent die because we choose not to feed their negativity with ours?
Courage Comes From The Heart
When we are in doubt about how to respond to a negative situation, it is always wise to take a breath and consult the heart. Responding out of love and peace is never a bad choice, and it doesn’t mean that we are weak by not confronting the anger or hatefulness in another. We can still hold to our point of view, but when we do that from a peaceful base, it is more likely to be heard by others. It may then be possible to turn an argument into a conversation or a misunderstanding into friendship. Courage is most powerful when it comes from the heart.
© 2013 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5
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