You Just Never Know

A few days ago I was playing cards with some people I had only very recently met. I laughed and joked and tried to be friendly. One of them, Dick, an elderly man of about 70, barely acknowledged me, and was actually quite rude. “Crusty old bastard,” I thought. “What could he possibly have against me? He doesn’t even know me. Why doesn’t he LIKE ME?” My first instinct was to lash out, but I didn’t. Instead I began thinking about how I would be rude back. I lost focus on the game, and this thought began to consume me.

A few minutes later, he left the table to get a beer. While he was gone, Earl, one of the other players, told me that Dick had cancer “real bad,” and had only about six months to live. All those negative thoughts that had been swirling around in my head immediately dissipated. Instead, I redoubled my efforts to be friendly and took every opportunity to compliment him on his play. Then he calmed down and was a little friendlier. Only a very little mind you. He still is a crusty old bastard.

But I am so glad I held my tongue in that moment.

In the days since, I have been thinking about that episode. How I almost fell into the trap, and contributed to its escalation. Why it took hearing about his illness to let go of my negative thoughts and change my approach with him. And why is it so freakin’ important that I feel liked by others?

Giving people the benefit of the doubt and showing them love and compassion is always a better option than fighting fire with fire. Easy to do when the love is returned. Far more difficult when it is not.

I suppose we’re wired to see the world through our own lens. I am trying to be more compassionate. It’s hard sometimes. I continue to be a work in progress.

But you just never know why people do what they do, and what they may be going through.

What's Love Got to Do with It? - Rookerville | Rookerville rookerville.com What's Love Got to Do with It? - Rookerville.com

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9 thoughts on “You Just Never Know

  1. Great post. I was wondering what you do when it is someone a bit closer to you. When there is someone in your life who should be treating you with care and respect and they do not. How do you respond in that situation?
    Sometimes I think that it is easier to let go and respond with kindness to a stranger than to someone who has personally done you wrong. That is something that I find very difficult.

  2. Elizabeth….I agree with you, and think it can go both ways. Sometimes it’s easier to be kind to a stranger because there’s nothing else wrapped up with them. In relationships, it can be tougher because of all the history. It can also be easier for the same reason, and because you care about them. But to someone who has personally done you wrong….this is the biggest challenge of them all. We have all heard about extreme cases where a person has killed, and a family member does not seek revenge. Rather they respond in love and forgiveness. In theory, I feel that it is the right thing, the best thing. But in practice, I have no idea how they do it.

    • Hi J, I feel like Elizabeth is searching for more in her question. I wonder if you, Elizabeth, have addressed it with the person who has made it difficult? Are they aware that it makes you feel this way? Some people assume that they should know. If this is a loved one, and you can’t fix it through several conversations, then I would think counselling would be the next step. I am assuming a lot here. I would not want to have a partner who doesn’t make me feel good about myself most of the time. On the other hand, if it is a relative, I would distance myself from them, tell them why, and as soon as they fix the way they are treating you, then you will resume the relationship. Nobody should feel empty or bad in a friendship/relationship. If they do, then I really think that somebody else out there can make you happy. Hope this helps.

  3. I just found your blog thru tiny Buddha post you had done. I am just learning how to respond in a loving way to all the resentments I have held on to in a emotionally abusive marriage. By practicing this is having such a positive strengthen experience for me. INow that I have let go of the shame I held for myself I am able to draw boundaries with my husband. This is changing how he treats me and most importantly how I am treating myself. I have doubts on how and if our marriage lasts, but I know whatever happens I am doing in a love in my heart I have not felt in a long time.

    • Hi Diane…thank you for this very insightful comment. Sounds like you have done alot of good work. Resentment is a relationship killer and can creep in slowly and insidiously. And setting boundaries not only changes how people treat you, but how you treat yourself. So important, and so tough to do if you are a people pleaser. I hope things work out exactly how you wish and need them to.

  4. Thank you for this great reminder. I think most times when someone is surly, it’s because of “stuff” they have going on. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and wonder why they don’t treat us better, when in reality it’s because they’re wrapped up in their own troubles.

  5. It seems a lot and when my husband died I to went threw a lot and camr to realize….Change happenes no matter what so just own it and learn from it. Grow with the changes & when you look back you will see out of the pain there is happiness and love you didn’t see before!!! BLESS YOU! !

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