The world seems to be full of bad people. I feel like I'm surrounded by greedy, selfish people who make it their life's mission to ruin my life. You seem to have the opposite opinion and I just wonder how you can justify that.
~ Disappointed in Olympia
I understand how difficult it can be to feel hopeful when things aren't going your way. I've certainly had my fair share of disappointments and frustrations and I know how easy it can be to see the world through the lens of those kinds of experiences.
The thing that we all have to keep in mind though, whether we tend toward positive or negative, is that we are not seeing the full picture – ever.
And while this notion can be a little scary, recognizing that we aren’t seeing the full story is immensely helpful when it comes to cutting other people slack. You never know what is going on in someone else’s life. Anyone, at any time, could be dealing with the loss of a loved one, a fight with a significant other, financial stress, fear of losing their house, or any number of other things. In addition, we are all shaped by our pasts and there’s no telling what kind of suffering someone faced during their youth.
You are correct that humans are innately selfish, as is any creature, but we tend toward compassion, unity, and selflessness once our needs are met. It’s the same principle as going down in a plane crash, you first have to put on your own mask before you help anyone else put on theirs.
Another thing worth noting is that selfish behavior means that any given person is likely to be so consumed by their own lives that they aren’t considering yours. So, if they are making your life difficult, they are doing it more for their own purposes than because of you. And while this might seem disheartening at first, this indicates that no one is setting out to make your life miserable on purpose.
I’m not going to tell you that humans are all angels, predestined to be wonderful, helpful beings, but they aren’t monsters either. From my perspective, anyone is capable of anything depending on the circumstances. So, while someone could be the next Buddha, they could also be the next Hitler. Also, interestingly enough, our compassion toward them is perhaps the biggest factor in determining which individual they will become.
We are all flawed. There is no doubt that we all have our struggles and hang-ups. When we react negatively, our reactions are fueled by our past pain and hurt. And when someone treats us badly, or reacts negatively toward us, it’s natural for us to react in kind. However, it’s rarely beneficial to do so.
Changing our reactions to someone else’s hurtful comments isn’t easy, but recognizing that said individual is hurting can ease your own hurt. Now, not reacting personally, you can present the opportunity for said individual to recognize, and potentially start to heal, the hurt fueling their current behavior.
When I was semi-truck driving one of the comments I heard most often from other semi-truck drivers was, “I’ll respect those who respect me.” And while I understand the sentiment, this concept has an innate flaw in that someone has to first start the chain. So, instead, I propose that we take the responsibility of being the bigger person and respect all people, no matter how insufferable they may be.
If the problem persists, you can certainly stop interacting with someone. However, someone will rarely continue to treat you badly when you consistently treat them with love and respect.
Be the kind of person that you want to see in the world.
With enough time, people will rise to meet your call to action. And, with time, you will start to see the positive potential that exists in all humans as well. Trust that we all want to be the best versions of ourselves and tirelessly invite those around you to become better. It may not always work, but I promise that you will not be disappointed with the effort.
I wish you joy and happiness from here on out.
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