How much suffering do you want to take on in this life? If it’s a lot, then continue to take everything personally. If it’s not a lot, then consider something very important before you take things personally. We sometimes get this idea in our heads that just because we would never do or say something like X unless we disrespected someone, doesn’t mean other people think or behave in the same way. By our very nature, we are born to monitor and look for patterns in our surroundings to keep ourselves safe. But when we make too many automatic assumptions about others and their intent (which we can’t with 100% certainty ever know), we actually cause our own suffering.
If someone cuts you off on the highway, and you get angry – you’ve taken things personally. You have absolutely no idea what’s going on for that person. They could be on their way to the hospital to say goodbye to a loved one. They could be on their way to day care to pick up a sick child. They could have just lost their job or are running late for an interview. Should they drive carelessly? No. But you see, when things trigger our emotions and urgency, we do sometimes lose our ability to do things or say things with any amount of normal care. Are some people just careless as a part of their nature? Sure. But none of that is about you is all I’m saying.
A part of our ego sometimes revels in the idea of catching others doing something wrong as if that might lift us in status in some way. It doesn’t. What you see in others is filtered through what? Your experience and your own intimate and personal awareness of your own short comings. But wait, isn’t there a right and wrong here? Sure, sometimes there is but also, sometimes that realm of right and wrong can differ from person to person and justifiably so given their situation, life experience and also their psychological state at any given moment.
Definitive truths in human interactions is hard to pin down especially when you are sure that your assumptions are facts just because they come from within your own mind. Your deductions based on the limited information you observe do not equate to definitive truth. When you understand that, you start to understand situations more, spool up less and your compassion and tolerance grows. Why would you want that? Well, intolerance, distrust, accusation, and anger all have their place but if you are living your life with the energy of those thoughts controlling the filter through which you see the world every moment of every day, you could be making yourself and those around you quite miserable.
We assume intention often but you can’t know someone’s intention with certainty so why let your mind take it to that level? You punish yourself so much when you create a framework where everyone and everything is out to get you or ruin your day. Sometimes bad or rough things happen. It isn’t necessarily personal, and I’d argue that even when someone attempts to make it personal with intention, you have to realize all the years of potentially detrimental psychology that person has lived with to come to that point where they may take issue with intention with you and your presence at a certain time or place.
I’m all for standing up for yourself and for what you believe in for sure. But belief, please understand, is provisional truth at best. Belief is a hypothesis. I’m not talking faith and religion here. That’s a whole other matter I’d prefer not to bring into this discussion at this time. Think more psychology – simpler like the thought process of – my husband didn’t take out the trash, therefore, he doesn’t love me and expects me to do all of the work in this house alone. He lives here too. Why should I do all of the work? The thing is, hubby may be busy with other things. So, if you want the trash out right this second – do it yourself or ask him again when you can tell he isn’t preoccupied. Taking the trash out when asked does not prove love to begin with. Love is bigger than that. I’m not suggesting we don’t set boundaries on what we will and will not tolerate but understand what love is and isn’t. If my imaginary situation is one that you have faced or feel, you might want to instead have a talk with your spouse rather than assume lack of love or care. Assumptions, and we all do it – are part of the problem.
We assume so naturally, but we can’t know 360 degrees of a person or their intentions by assumption alone. I find dealing in facts keeps me from constantly being disappointed by others. I also find expressing my needs up front rather than trying to catch someone with proof they don’t love me is time better spent. In my life, I have faced both intentional and unintentional slights or bad behavior. Because I value my peace, I choose to see both as not about me. I have developed a pretty good sense of self and I know that no one on this planet can know me at a 360 degree level. So, their insult is not something I need to take on board. If I’m concerned about truth in their words, I can own up to my actions or behavior without that threatening me at the core level of my being. Most of the time though, I understand that someone who calls me names is telling the world more about the state of their own psychology than they are telling the world about me.
I mean, I am certainly not everyone’s cup of tea but if someone wants to see a monster in me, that’s on them and doesn’t bear out as the definitive truth about me. If I get caught up in collateral damage by the unthinking actions of others, I’m not always quick to anger and even if I do become angry, I won’t act or react on that anger without first trying my best to see the truth of a situation. Once I see that my own assumptions cannot be validated about a person or thing – again, since I value my own personal peace, I’m more likely to set the matter on ignore and walk away. I choose understanding over asserting my ego for its version of right or wrong because I know me and my ego is wholly incapable of doing that accurately.
A few more parting thoughts on the matter…have you ever done something stupid, insensitive, uncaring or even cringy? We all have as we have made our way through life. Our mistakes are how we learn. When someone “transgresses” in my view, I am likely to be compassionate and understanding – meaning, I’m not going to get crazy angry or feel bad about myself to the point I get angry. I may be disappointed and I may choose to set boundaries so I don’t suffer further unthinking or bad behavior but I will do my level best to maintain my balance and equanimity. Somethings just hurt in life and that is what it is but “hurting someone back” will never, ever remove the pain or other emotion that you suffered and any attempt at vengeance for a perceived slight whether intentionally or unintentionally committed will never un-mark that pivotal moment in your interaction. Your energy is better spent understanding the emotion an action evoked in you rather than engaging in further battle. In life, battle is all some people know and due to psychology, it’s the only way they know how to interact with others and it’s very likely – unhealthy. To continue to engage with some people in a tit-for-tat exchange is truly beneath you, won’t change that person or their behavior and is really not the best use of your energy.
From a bigger picture perspective, those things in life that vex you the most, the things that trigger that feeling of incredulous within you – those are all messages to you from you that you have wounds inside that need your time, attention and great care. We all carry these. It’s part of living life on Earth. But when you strive for understanding both for yourself and another, you can home in on what is best for you in a moment. Maintaining peace is a beautiful thing. Engaging in battle often leads to escalation, chaos and worse. Step back. Take a breath. Pause for a moment. See what within you can thoughtfully respond. Ask yourself if this or that thing is really the thing you want to take personally. Is there a basis inside of you that is easily triggered? Do you know that if you figure out what those things are and strive to understand and heal them, no one can ever trigger you to unconsciously take things personally again? Wow! That is a powerful thing to possess – healing, the ability to stop, think, and respond to a situation (walking away or not saying a word is also a response).
So yeah, if you value your peace, don’t take things personally. Things don’t always go the way we think they should. That doesn’t mean that we are bad, wrong or whatever. It just means this or that interaction isn’t going as planned. So, stop, consider, reset and strive for something different, better or healthy for you. You matter as does every human on this planet no matter how attractive of repulsive you find certain folks. We are all part of a whole living here in this giant Earth School at this time. We need to learn how to de-escalate and honestly, that begins best within and a starting point is not taking things so personally.
I wish you peace, I wish you love, I wish you the greatest understanding, and the deepest compassion. You’ve got this!
© 2024 Jaie Hart (photo and words)