One of the most difficult challenges each of us faces on a daily basis is learning how to NOT react to other people. It starts from the very moment you wake up. If you live in a family, it is very easy to let someone else’s morning mood wreck your day before it has even really gotten started. Stop and think: Which one of us has not allowed a crying baby, a barking dog, or another family member’s bad mood to immediately begin to affect our own attitude? If we are not careful, we can easily get caught up in another person’s mood or attitude and become just like them. We must plan in advance to not let the surrounding circumstances control us, or we will surely fail in this area of life!
A while back I was meeting one of my daughters at Panera Bread Company for lunch. When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that there was some construction going on that was making the flow of traffic a little difficult. Since I had arrived a few minutes early, I sat in my car doing some paper work while I waited for my daughter to arrive.
As I was sitting there doing my work, I noticed that a gentleman and his wife were trying to get into a parking place, but his progress was being slowed down because an oncoming car stopped in front of the restaurant so that an elderly woman could be dropped off close to the front door. There was also a woman and some children in another car directly behind him. In an effort to give the elderly woman the room she needed to get out of the car near the entrance, the gentleman who was trying to park his car began to slowly back up since he had nowhere else to go. The woman behind him began loudly honking her horn at him. In response, the man opened his car door to say something to her. I thought, “Uh-oh! I am about to witness a fight right here in Panera’s parking lot!”
To my surprise, the man kindly said to the woman in the car with the kids, “I see that you are behind me. I was just backing up in order to let the lady in front of me get out of her car. If you could back up a little bit then I can back up a bit more. I sure would appreciate it.” Immediately the woman behind him in the car full of kids started to back up so that the gentleman could move his car and the elderly lady was able to get out of her car without any additional difficulty. In a matter of seconds, traffic began to flow again and everything was fine.
I was amazed! I immediately prayed, “Dear Lord, please help me to become more like that gentleman!” He was so non-reactionary. He never raised his voice; he never acted “put out”; he never responded like, “Don’t you blow your horn at me!”; he never displayed any anger at all. As a matter of fact, the only attitude that he displayed was complete kindness, gentleness and self-control. He acted like a mature adult rather than a grown child! I wondered how he was able to do that. How was it that he could remain so calm, cool and collected when he was blocked in front and behind and someone was honking their horn at him?
As I have had some time to reflect upon that situation, I believe that gentleman did not wait until he was in the midst of that confrontation to decide how he was going to respond. He must have “pre-planned” not to let the circumstances and events of life cause him to lose his peace. And, that is what this Tip is really all about.
I once heard someone say, “What goes on all around us pales in comparison to what goes on inside of us every day.” Ouch! I don’t want to be a reactionary person. I don’t want to let the weather, the moods of other people, the traffic, my relatives, my friends, my business associates, my church friends, my finances, my health or the circumstances of life to control my inner peace. I want to be a person who is gentle and kind and thoughtful, regardless of what is taking place around me. Besides, I have learned that having a rotten attitude does very little to help make the circumstances any better. In fact, it oftentimes makes things worse. What about you? Are you a reactionary person? Do you determine how you are going to behave and act toward other people based on the things they say and do to you? This is hard stuff!
This Tip is one of the most important lessons that any of us can learn. It is just so easy to let outward circumstances control our inward peace. But, it does not have to be that way. Regardless of the circumstances on the outside, we can choose to have a cheerful spirit and a non-reactionary attitude toward other people. If we do that, it will not only impress those around us, like the gentleman who was parking his car did for me, but it will also reduce our own personal stress and increase our own productivity.
I am grateful for that gentleman in the parking lot who demonstrated so well what it means to keep your inner peace in the face of a tense situation. He could have responded in any number of unpleasant ways, but he chose to be non-reactionary. It was very impressive indeed! I know that is what I want for my life and I am sure that you do, too.
Tip: Non-reactionary people impress me!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm