If there is anything in life, or as I like to call “the external world”, that we can control, it’s our response. You can be deprived and stripped of everything in life but the choice on how to respond to them, will always be yours.
One day, maybe a couple of weeks ago, I went to grab a cup of coffee at one of the many Starbucks locations in Irvine. All I wanted to do was enjoy my coffee and read some blogs on my MacBook. The only table available was near the ordering/cash register area. There wasn’t much room but that was ok, it was the only table available and so I sat there anyways. Not even 10 minutes being there and a flood of high school kids come walking in.
As I’m sitting there reading a blog, a group of teenage girls stand by the table I’m at. They were waiting in line and instead of allowing space, they decided to squeeze in the little section between me and the cash register. They started to bump the table I was sitting at, and one of the girls started to play with her hair to the point where all of it blocked my computer screen and landed on my keyboard almost knocking over my coffee. And yes, she was that close.
All I said was, “Excuse me, your hair is landing on my computer keyboard.” in a calm way. She replied with, “Excuse you!” and then turned around to her friends, made a comment about me to her friends and they all started laughing. I initially thought it was rude, of course, but paid no mind and decided to return to reading again. But the minute they saw it didn’t bother me, they attempted to start provoking me with little remarks and continuously tried to move my table once again. I was surprised by what was going on and just decided it was probably better that I not sit at that table anymore. So I got up to go find another place to sit. As I started to leave, I hear the group of girls say together, “Bye, ho!” and start laughing.
Now, of course, this would cause most people to react in a very negative way. I’m sure just reading this would make you annoyed in some way. Ordinarily, the reaction of “Oh, no they didn’t!” would surface immediately, but instead of judging the girls by how rude and disrespectful they were, I honestly felt really bad for them.
Why do I feel this way?
Because they are lucky that I’m a compassionate person. Not all people are compassionate and if these girls ever cross the “wrong” person, who knows what could happen. I’ve learned to train my brain to make time to assess situations when they happen so I can respond correctly as opposed to initial negative reactions that come from a blow to the ego. Because that’s all reactions are. It’s the way we allow our ego to defend itself like allowing your kid to have a meltdown in public. Discipline is in order to keep things in order.
When you respond with compassion, you are in control of your ego; when you react with a negative emotion, you are a prisoner of your ego and in essence, becoming your kid who has meltdowns in public. Reactions are instant, but responses are not.
Also, these girls are just teenagers. They don’t fully understand the concept of compassion, especially in the age of social media, where it’s easy to develop all sorts of negative behaviors from competition. So I feel there’s no reason to be upset with them. Whatever behavior they expressed towards me is a reflection of who they are. Once I allow it to “bother” me, I immediately accept their behavior as my own. But I don’t. I only hope that these girls learn about the destructiveness of their behavior towards others soon. And I wish them the best, as we are all connected and deserve all the awesome experiences life has to offer.
So I have to ask, what would you have done in this situation? Would you have reacted or responded?
Photo: The Strength card in tarot. It represents the ability to tame the “animal” within us and show compassion among the infinite times we will face adversity in life.