It was masked in righteous indignation and criticism because they were easier to tap into. The holier-than-thou feeling of ‘how could people not see this’, and ‘how could they be so mean’… The suppositions that everyone ought to see or be, and when they don’t, their actions were intentionally hurtful…
I noticed moments after they arose what IT actually was, this surge of aggression that welled up.
A mentee contacted me seeking help to address a bureaucratic process which compelled her to “prove” she was financially unable to meet a required fee. This fee would impact on whether she could pursue her career or not. Now, providing documentation in support is no big deal, guess we are all so used to supplying proof that we would hardly blink.
The reply she had received was a template email reply, which failed to respond to her request and the reasons she provided. The reasons for her financial hardship told of an estranged relationship, a proud family getting by, a neglectful father, the indignities of abandonment and much more. How does one provide proof of these? Do we require bank statements showing minimal balance? Do we require proof of the anxious feelings of insecurity and sorrow? Do we put a fellow human being through greater indignity and embarrassment? If someone had taken the time to make a phone call, her voice over the line spoke volumes, as I found out.
I needed to know ‘why’ for the impersonal reply and was told it was sent because she could have been lying and that she might be taking advantage of the system. Thus, by implication she was required to overcome this baseline by “proving her case”.
Two days of emotional processing later (subconsciously it would seem as the matter resolved that day and I didn’t think much of it after), I realised over and above the anger, I was sad.
I was sad that we have been “programmed” to expect the worse of another, to have a baseline from which we had to prove we are good and worthy.
I was sad that we are “programmed” to see our work as isolated from our environment, as a means to an end of just making a living, and to not see that our actions however small they may be and wherever we may be located, impact on another person.
When did we learn to disassociate our humanness from the industrious machine we call ‘work’?
As Maya Angelou said,
“Your legacy is what you do every day. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped, that’s your legacy.”
If we had taken time to put ourselves in another’s shoes and to mindfully exercise the empathy we are all capable of, we would realise few would create a family story such as that told to me. If we had stopped to have a real conversation, we would not have assumed the worse and prejudged the situation.
And in the failure to attend to the interactions and the relationships, we lose the opportunity to stay true to our humanness.
So in spite my anger and sadness, I believe we are not inherently mean nor are we intentionally hurtful, few are. Yet our unthinking and not-mindful actions can hurt.
We can choose to engage with and to make a positive difference to another’s life.
- Pay attention.
Behind every letter, email, text message, and in every conversation… there is a person and a story. Pay attention to it.
Listen, truly listen with a compassionate heart and an open mind. In that moment, be prepared and seek to understand.
- Be mindful.
Let go of judgment of another or what they may think of us. Attend to the person, not your idea of the person. Choose to be mindful to every word, every gesture, every pause, … they are meaningful.
Let go of time as the arbiter of our actions, there is always more time. Easier said than done, I agree though it is not undo-able. Perhaps we’ll be inspired by what’s next.
- Stop, know this.
What we do is not just about us, our efficiency, our productivity, our task completion. What we do impacts on another person, what we do influences the culture in which we work and how we live.
Kindness shown is always felt, and more likely to inspire kindness.
Not everyone has to do “great things” to make a difference; every one of us can do small things with love and that makes a difference to those we come in contact with.
© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.