It was mid afternoon on a beautiful summer day and I had just left my office. Having completed everything on my to-do list, I had decided to leave early. A warm salt breeze assaulted my senses as the sun beckoned me home. Walking down a lovely street to the parking lot, I went over the day’s events in my mind.
There had been two particularly difficult situations to deal with involving cranky individuals and I had managed to defuse them both. I felt great and entertained thoughts of how so many challenges in my past had come to make me a better person. Smiling, I complimented myself on my people skills, patience and understanding. I wasn’t walking around with an attitude of gratitude. I was just walking around with attitude and was about to learn another lesson, all over again.
Having found my car, I pulled out of the parking lot and turned left down a very short street. I slowed down as I approached the intersection where I was going to make a right turn. The light was green so I started to go through when all of a sudden, six men, all drunk, walked right in front of my vehicle, forcing me to stop abruptly.
They were crossing the street on a red light. There was even one of those electric signs with the big hand on it that clearly states, “don’t walk”. Had I not been attentive, I could have easily hit them. I was instantly furious at them! I rolled my window down and barked out,
“Hey, can’t you guys read? There is even a little picture there for you! See it … the big hand that means don’t walk?”
Their rebuttals were immediate and not fit for print here. With a menacing look about them, they started towards me, so I turned right, accelerated, and got out of there in a hurry.
As I put some distance between us, I began to feel awful and not worthy of the praise I had so generously lavished upon myself not ten minutes before. “I know better”, I told myself. I spent the rest of the day beating myself up for being such an idiot.
Every day we live presents us with new challenges. These challenges are opportunities for growth. How we face our challenges and what we learn from them will ultimately define our character.
All of us have barked at someone at some point or another. In a moment of anger, we have said things to people we care for that we really didn’t mean to say. We’ve done it more than once too. From time to time, we have handled situations in a way that we knew, or should have known, was going to be counterproductive. For a brief moment, we ignored that knowledge and ended up saying afterwards, “I know better!”
Guess what? We’re human. We make mistakes. Not one of us is perfect and to expect perfection is just setting ourselves up for failure. What is more important is that we continue to recognize the wisdom in the lessons taught to us by our lives while always striving to be the best we can be.
If we are paying attention and learning, we will notice ourselves reacting less and less to certain situations. This indicates growth. Not that it’s an excuse but the fact is, ten year earlier I probably would have blown up three times more given the same circumstances that I faced that day.
Forgiving ourselves is crucial. I have met people who refuse to engage the world head-on for fear of how they will react. They are not afraid of the world, they are fearful of their interaction with it. Life is the greatest of all teachers.
By not engaging the world, they are not embracing life and therefore missing the opportunities to learn and grow. They simply don’t trust themselves to handle what life might present them with at any given moment. A lack of self-trust often indicates an absence of self-forgiveness.
Another way to think of it is that we need practice. Even with practice, we will still make mistakes. But if we pay attention, we will grow and make less and less of them.
Have you ever watched a star hockey player miss an open net with a shot from 10 feet away? Have you seen a professional golfer miss a three-foot putt? Imagine how many tens of thousands of times they have practised these things, but still, a momentary loss of focus, and they miss. Sometimes, it costs them the game.
Good athletes learn from this. They do not spend days berating themselves with negative thoughts about how poorly they performed because they know that if they do, they will greatly compromise their ability to perform. Instead, they forgive themselves and trust that they will do better next time. Like you and I, they will say, “I know better” — and then they move forward.
So must we.
“Don’t Walk” JForth @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Wisdom – Seeds of Light” hkoppdelany @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
Originally Posted at synaptici on March 28, 2009