Do you fight fire with fire? Douse it with water? Let it burn?
This past week has been one such challenge.
Arriving in an alien city armed with a less-than-proficient skill for the local language, I found my every attempt to communicate and get things done thwarted by unhelpful and rude attitude. The city was crowded, filled with people having little situational awareness while intent on getting their own way in the quickest way possible or for maximum advantage. These were only my assumptions of course.
The moment I set foot upon the strange land, my attempts to communicate were met with disdain or ignored. My smiles and friendly gestures were not reciprocated. Then I was prodded and jostled while walking along the streets. Annoyance turned to anger. My powerlessness over the situation was threatening my sense of independence and confidence to navigate this city.
My resentment grew. This was even though I understood the reasons for the unpleasant encounters, mostly attributable to cultural differences of values and lifestyle.
No longer prepared to be pushed and shoved, I learned to brace myself in the crowds and not giving way. I reduced my communication to short sentences, my speech adopted a tone of orders and commands, less polite. The volume louder than usual (for me).
This occurred over a few days and my discomfort was overwhelming such that I wanted to retreat from this place and its people. I had determined and was certain that future encounters would be negative, and expected them to be so.
A quiet moment and a conversation with a loved one brought this realization.
I speak often of integrity – where what we think, say and do accord with our values and are consistent.
So, my intention is to live a mindful life, being kind, respectful and compassionate, with a dose of curiosity and wonderment. This means being true to myself notwithstanding the environment.
There I was, in a crowded city, reacting mindlessly and adopting aggressive behaviours, being unkind in my thoughts, giving away my sense of curiosity and wonderment to satisfy my ego need for acknowledgement.
What a lesson in humility!
We may speak of and act with integrity while ensconced in our safe space. The true test is whether we can maintain our integrity in the face of adversity or when confronted with threats to our identity and sense of safety.
It is not hard to fight fire with fire; it is almost an instinctive reaction to return aggression with aggression, unkindness with unkindness… Change requires introducing something different into the situation.
The remaining days after that enlightening moment were less triggering, and more enjoyable. I regained my equilibrium, and “fighting back” became letting go of the what-should-happen and accepting what-is.
I may not be mindful always (few people are :-)) but I am grateful for the self-awareness I have developed and the reflective skills taken years to hone. And this is one lesson I am not likely to forget.
© 2019 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.