Driving is a classic example.
It might go something like this:
- Late for work. I jump in the car rather stressed since wife didn't rouse me in time when the alarm didn't go off, and daughter was in the shower when I should have been.
- Nearly hit a passing car as I back out of the driveway at 60 k/h.
Why does he honk at me like that? Doesn't he know I'm in a hurry?? Give me a break!
- Nearly hit by a commuter backing out of his driveway at 60 k/h. I honk hard and glare at him in passing. Who on Earth taught him to drive?? Doesn't he know anything about road safety?
- Sit chafing at the red light on the freeway ramp, only to get stuck in bumper2bumper snails-pace. When's this government going to update this over-stretched infra-structure as promised? Won't be voting for them in the next election!
- A commuter crosses in front of me to get to the next turn off, I have to brake hard to avoid hitting him. I honk hard, lean out of the window and yell at him. Idiot drivers!
- I nearly miss my turn-off and obliged to quickly cross a few lanes before I'm cut off. It wasn't my fault that a car was creeping up in that blind spot! My car wasn't designed with a left-side fish-eye mirror. He has no right to yell and honk like that! Whatever happened to road-courtesy and graciousness? Idiot drivers!
Sound familiar? I wonder if my driving would improve if I put myself in the other driver’s shoes?
“But nah! Haven’t got time for that when I’m stressed!”
Another common example:
A girl is disappointed in love for the second or third time.
She vows: “I’ll never fall in love again! All men are the same!”
A lot of sad songs have been written using those words.
Often she gets over it and falls in love again with, hopefully, a dependable man.
The sad part is when people don’t change their opinion of the other sex or their life choices because of this kind of disappointment. It’s called harbouring bitterness.
Many sadder, even tragic examples can be drawn from everyday life:
- A father hits his child in anger because he didn’t like the way he/she spoke back at him
- A child hates his/her father because of cases of child abuse.
“I’ll never forgive him!”
(Please note: I’m neither condoning child abuse or trivializing the pain the victim has suffered.)
- A boy gets ridiculed and bullied at school because he is smaller or different in some way from the “cool kids”. He withdraws into himself.
There have been some extreme cases when they have tried self-harm, even suicide.
This is why we need to learn to get out of the reactive way of living, before it becomes a monkey on our back i.e become bitter, unforgiving, hard, cynical or emotionally crippled in some way.
A reaction is normal, but we can still make choices that can lift us above the situation, instead of becoming enslaved to it.
I know. I’ve tried both approaches.
I’m not saying I’ve thoroughly learned my lesson, because I still occasionally react, rather than stepping back and choosing to be pro-active about it.
But when I have done the latter, it’s been so liberating for me, and sown a lot of interesting seed in the life of the perpetrator.
The best example in history was the man who hung on a cross:
“….When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.”
(1 Peter 2:23 NIVUK)