This week, news reports covered a bizarre brawl among adults belonging to two wedding parties at the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa. One death resulted.
How odd that such a large group of adults couldn't manage to control their anger and impulse behavior. Seems like mastering impulse control ought to be a requirement before you reach 18. It's strange to me that you have to have a license to own a dog, but there's no oversight for ensuring emotional intelligence for adulthood.
When you think about it, these guests were friends and relatives that the brides and grooms invited to support and celebrate with them on one of the most important days of their lives. I wonder how it is that these friends and supporters couldn't remember that this day wasn't about them.
I guess the truth of what happened and why it happened hasn't been fully disclosed, though when it is I'm guessing there won't be any surprises. I would suppose that someone, or several someones, made a disparaging remark and several other someones thought that a physical response would somehow right that wrong. Interesting.
Offense can be slippery territory, knocking people right off their center, and few people know how to handle it well. Rather than looking at someone's offending remarks as reflective of the sender and their sense of security -- or the lack thereof -- some of us tend to identify with the remark and somehow rationalize that retaliation is the right next move. But we don't have to identify with another's remarks. We really don't.
I remember a beautiful young man in high school, he must have been 16 when I knew him. He had such a presence, several of us thought he might be a senator at some point in the future. He came around to asking me out one day, and I was thrilled. But we never went out. He attended a party the next night and after hearing a couple of uninvited guests make a few rude remarks, he spontaneously jumped into the middle of a fight. He sustained an irreparable brain injury, losing the ability to speak and walk, and he'll spend the rest of his life in an electric wheelchair.
"Stop and think," I tell my children constantly. Rarely does impulse behavior work out well for anyone. And rarely is there a time in our lives where we can't create the space to simply stop and think before we act.
We can always take a moment -- in the moment -- and check in with ourselves and/or ask God, 'What is the right and best thing to do?' And then wait. And listen. Then act, if you need to, and with wisdom. Don't react. Taking that moment only takes a moment, but living with the consequences of our choices can sometimes last a lifetime.
Offense is an option and though it's not a good one, you have to remember that it's a choice. Nothing limits our good fortune more than responding with, living in, meditating on or responding from -- offense. Buying into offense is a little like buying a one-way ticket into the pit of our insecurities. When, if you think about it, is usually where an offender is trying to send us.
Sometimes people are offensive, and you can't control their behavior. But you can control how you respond to it. There are all kinds of creative ways to respond to difficult people, and the best time to come up with those creative ways is proactively, in the absence of a difficult situation or person.
1. Think today about the situations you haven't handled well, and how you might like to respond to them if that scenario were to come up again. Chances are it will. Life is good about giving us second chances. Google a few terms to discover resources and new methods of acting with skill instead of reacting with emotion.
2. If you regularly feel offended or if you often react from anger, notice how you feel when you do. Chances are you don't feel strong, empowered or guided, but rather out-of-control, weak and hurt. Look at those places within that come up most strongly in situations when you want to react and search out helpful ways to heal them. Whether it's a kind therapist or good reading material, there are plentiful resources around us every day. Remember, it isn't the situation that causes the pain, but the wound within that was already there.
3. Try daily meditations such as surrounding yourself in purple or white light, angels or other protective beings. I know that may sound a little hokey to some, but these meditations can have a very real protective and healing affect. When you find yourself in the midst of a conflict, practice envisioning a moat around you. See the other person's remarks going into the moat. Or you might envision outward-facing mirrors around you such that abrasive remarks bounce off of the protective barrier and are reflected back onto the other person. Too often we internalize others' unkind words and behaviors and really, we don't have to.
4. If you find yourself on the edge of a conflict, try to be a calming agent to those around you. Encourage people to let it go and walk away. With a little distance, they'll be glad that they did. And you might just save someone's life as a result.
For more by Melissa Van Rossum, click here.
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