The impact on a business or personal relationship, when individuals cannot get along, can be obvious. This week in our local paper there was a story written on the 10-year anniversary of a tragic shooting at a technology company in the state where I live. One of my closest friends worked for this company as a senior executive and she was, thankfully, not there on that day after Christmas, but it felt especially close to home because she knew all of the victims very well.
What goes wrong in business that a person wants to kill their fellow workers? What goes wrong personally that someone wants to harm a loved one with physical or mental abuse? Why isn’t the first reaction of most people when they are stressed to reach out in kindness and compassion – instead of lashing out in anger in so many cases?
I believe we live in a culture that does not value teaching our children, and adults, how to understand one another and look at life from another’s perspective. Admittedly, we all have our own filters on the world and stepping into someone else’s shoes is not an easy thing to do – if it is possible at all. But we can recognize that everyone, no matter who or where they may be, is dealing with some sort of personal pain. Each person walking around has been wounded somehow. The problem is that instead of looking at one another as the walking wounded and reaching out a hand to help, we retreat into ourselves and blame that other person for our pain.
What if we were able to step outside of our own filter, and look objectively at others around us? Instead of seeing the other person as the reason for our problems, what if we saw the neediness and the hurt that other person felt? Most of us know that a bully is a person who is, or has been, bullied by another – a child who is abused by a parent will often abuse smaller, less-able children, or even animals, because the pain has to be released somewhere. What if it were possible to work with the adult and help them find options to replace committing the abuse in the first place? What if by seeing how much pain many people are in each day, we could offer compassion?
I’m not suggesting that we open our homes to everyone who needs help and I’m not suggesting that we even “forgive” those people who commit abuse. I’m suggesting that instead of our reaction to lash out, or withdraw, when someone is difficult to us, we step outside of our own hurt and pain and really tried to view that other person as the human being they are. If we could truly see people, we might be able to recognize those needing our compassion, and also those who may present a danger to us. It’s true not everyone should be our friend or receive our goodwill, but we need an objective viewpoint in order to consider how to respond in each and every situation.
Instead of being triggered and reacting and being triggered again and reacting again, we do have a choice: to break the cycle and begin to view others through a different lens. I don’t know that doing this would prevent someone like the shooter I referred to earlier from committing his heinous crimes, but one has to wonder, if hateful people had received some objective compassion along the way, if the outcome of their lives in totality could have been different.
For 2011, resolve to step into Interested Observer mode at least twice per day. Begin to practice truly seeing another person without putting your own colored glasses on before you look at them. If we all passed along just a bit more understanding of other people, we would be able to make this new year a very different one.