November 10, 2012
Do you tend to grumble because you have a spouse, sibling, coworker or friend who can never seem to manage to do their fair share of whatever it is in which you are both involved?
Somewhere in the world there are some really lazy, selfish, or stubbornly incapable people whom you might want to avoid, in order to keep your sanity and not be prevented from accomplishing an important goal or your life’s purpose.
But, I propose quite often the problem with one person’s unhappiness in an “unfair” relationship (working or familial), has more to do with one’s own perception and intrenched assumptions, than with the other person’s shortcomings. Let me explain.
Imagine you have twelve hours to drive to some place unfamiliar. You have this other person on the trip with you, but he can’t drive. He falls asleep in the passenger seat.
Eight hours into the trip you’re feeling tired and wishing he would do his share of the driving, to let you do some of the happy dreaming over there in the other seat. But no, he doesn’t even have a driver’s license because he’s always been afraid to try, even though you think his poor vision isn’t all that bad; after all, he doesn’t have trouble doing anything that else he really wants to do.
You come to a fork in the road which isn’t on the map, and you’re not sure which way to go. You pull over, wake your friend, and see what he thinks. You take his advice because it makes sense, and forty minutes later you see a sign which lets you know you are on the right track—your friend had been right about which way to turn.
Suddenly he wakes up again, and just before a freeway exit he asks if you know you are just about out of gas. You would have passed the exit and run out of gas because you were too tired to think of checking your gas gauge. Thanks to your friend, again, you are on your way with a full gas tank and no time lost.
When you arrive at your destination, you are so happy to be on time that you are no longer angry about having to do all the driving; you’re not even tired because you’re psyched about getting on with the purpose of your arrival.
Now of course by normal thinking, it certainly sounds like the work of the trip was unfairly divided. But consider your assumptions.
- You assume that your friend was happily dreaming for 12 hours. But what about the fact that your friend often wishes he could drive himself about, without having to depend on others? What about the headache he had all the next day because he slept uncomfortably in that car seat, instead of home in a bed, where he could have been if he hadn’t wanted to be along with you? What about the nightmare he had about you falling asleep while driving?
- You assume that you did all the work of driving. What about your friend’s two major contributions, without which you might have been several hours late? Don’t you think knowing which way to turn and when to get gas is just as important as controlling the car, as far as arriving at the correct place and time?
- You assume that your friend could actually drive just fine, if he weren’t too lazy to take responsibility. Maybe that’s true; maybe not. But even if that were true, it’s actually his loss, not yours. If he won’t learn and use a skill, he’s that much less capable and less experienced. But if you can manage to do more where he does less, than you are that much MORE capable and MORE experienced. You might even thank him for affording you the opportunity to stretch yourself.
So the truth is, you did what you could do, your friend did what he could do, and together the trip was a success. Remind yourself what matters.
If life were meant to always be “fair” as defined when we are acting like children who complain, “That’s not fair! I did it last time; it’s his turn now!” then we would all be identical in every way.
While sometimes we feel afraid of standing out from the crowd for fear we’ll make a mistake and be ridiculed, or for fear of being a bit lonely, truly everyone wants to be unique, special, better, needed, appreciated. We’d be so bored if somehow everyone’s life could be just like everyone else’s, so why ridicule or resent someone for not having the same skills or personality traits we possess?
An important key to finding happiness in any relationship, is to look for the virtues and utilities of the other person. Whether they are greater or lessor as compared to yourself or anyone else, does not mean they are not valuable. Appreciate the valuable, and it will appreciate in value.
Now reconsider that person in your life who can’t or won’t do his or her “fair share,” and see what there is about him or her for which you can be thankful and happy. What is his or her valuable contribution, whether great or small? Appreciate it. Build on it.
September 10, 2011
If you are one of us ambitious types, with always too much to do, you’ve probably been through countless bouts of frustration and despair when you felt that you’ve had too many things going wrong and too many problems to deal with. You often feel like you deserve a break–a span of time when everything goes well, long enough for you to get caught up and even to get ahead before the next batch of trouble strikes. After all, you are working for the good of someone–your kids, your spouse, your boss, your customers, your country, the world; the universe should give you a break so you can do good things, right?
Well, maybe it doesn’t work that way. Maybe rather than resenting the relentless difficulties, we should plan on them–the way we plan on other facts of life in this human form on this strange planet. Businesses have to plan on employees taking sick-leave or missing work for various reasons, so why don’t we plan on it for ourselves? Why do we act like our lives should always run smoothly, as if difficulty isn’t part of a smooth plan?
Maybe dealing with problems coming at is like baseballs from a mechanical pitcher set on high speed, is as useful in the long run as having to work for a living, interact with other humans, sleep a third of our lives, and eat on a regular basis (all things God instituted).
Maybe we’d get farther if we accepted these unexpected troubles as character-enriching experiences (teaching us humility, patience, faith, respect) and planned time for them: expect the unexpected and greet it with grace.
We wouldn’t expect to keep a job without allotting time for personal grooming and the commute to work. Lets stop complaining and start allotting time for dealing with crashed computers, relatives with bad moods, incompetent people, sicknesses, lost items, mechanical breakdowns, etc.
Sure we should intelligently try to minimize or avoid problems, but we would suffer so much less stress and less-frequently inflict a hurtful attitude on others, if we would understand and accept that we are in an imperfect world, and other people are imperfect, as are we.
As illustrated in the poem “How Did You Die?” by Edmund Vance Cooke, life isn’t about everything running perfectly; it’s about how we deal with everything, however it runs.
Lets plan X hours per week for unexpected trouble, and see how much happier we are–and how much happier we make those around us too.
© 2011 NPM
July 31, 2011
Decide how you WANT to feel, and ACT as if it were real.
Pretend that you don’t feel like smashing, hitting, yelling, crying yourself to sleep.
Give a hug, a kind word, a calm response; start a good topic.
Watch your mood really change, your heart soften, your self lighten, the air clear.
Watch those around you melt a little too; they may even apologize.
If they don’t, at least they may slowly follow your lead in peaceful positive directions.
And if not even that, then you’ll feel better for not joining them in hurtful behavior.
But hope for the best – act as if you expect them to join you in positivity; make space for them.
Everyone feels like fighting when pushed; so back off, offer a little metaphorical milk, and most folks will put their claws away.
Life will seem brighter and more lovely when you practice love.
Just like anyone determined to learn a skill, you’ll make mistakes; but keep practicing acts of kindness until you become kind.
For even faster and truer results, consult and seek love and guidance from the creator and source of love – God Himself.
Now, what’s your next move, your next word? Make it a good one, and enjoy the results.
Problems Shrink When We Outgrow Them, p.45**
Taming Impulses, p.50**
Every Detail Matters, p.52**
Taking His Hand, p.49**
A Prayer in Advance, p.61**
Expecting the Surprise Attack, p62**
He Works Every Day, p.67**
After the Rain, p.4**
**(from my book,
“Pebbles, Blisters, and Handfuls of Sunlight” Also available from your favorite online bookstore.)