We have a tendency to think other people are idiots but we are not. This is a complete generalization, but it operates in our daily lives and it causes a lot of unnecessary suffering.
For example, if someone else’s phone rings while I’m watching a movie at a movie theater, my tendency is to think that person is inconsiderate and rude.
But when my phone rings, I cut myself some slack. I have to keep my phone on, I think, it might be the babysitter.
If I cut someone off in traffic, I think, I made a mistake. If someone else cuts me off in traffic, I think they are inconsiderate and rude.
I have been pointing this tendency out to many of my clients lately and I’ve noticed in my own thinking.
We are all hypocrites.
The bad news is that when we see other people’s behavior as inconsiderate and rude, we suffer. When someone does something “wrong,” we tend to travel a path in our minds that does not serve us.
We think: Why am I the only one who has to follow the rules? or What’s going to happen to the world when people act like this? or This country is going to hell in a hand-basket.
When we think these thoughts, we feel judged, defeated, fearful.
When we feel judged, defeated, or fearful, we act out. We react to our feelings, rather than respond to our situation.
Going back to the movie theater example, our negative thoughts might lead us to yell at the person whose phone is ringing, or even more likely, to huff and mutter about other people’s rudeness. Now we are behaving in a rude and inconsiderate manner, just like the person we yelled or huffed at.
The good news is that we always have a choice. We can notice our tendency to judge others more harshly than ourselves and decide to cut them some slack. We can think, maybe that’s their babysitter, or maybe just they forgot to shut their phone off. I’ve done that.
When we think those kinds of thoughts, we tend to feel accepting, kind, peaceful. The way we act when we are feeling kind is very different from the way we act when we are feeling fearful. It may be subtle—sighing resentfully when fearful vs. a smile when someone forgot to shut their phone off, just like us—but it will definitely affect our experience of the our day and even the movie we are there to see.
When we do this day after day, we end up with a negative experience of our week, month, year—life. The way to change our experience is to notice our thoughts and decide how we want to respond. It’s more difficult than just reacting in the moment but it’s worth it.
Try it and let me know if you agree.