One of the most interesting (and best) pieces of advice on relationships I ever read was this: Imagine the person with whom you contend as an infant or a very elderly individual.
Pick someone who rubs you the wrong way every which way to Sunday and think about him or her as a tiny baby or a frail and feeble grandparent.
Did you feel some of the hostility melt away when the image of your “thorn in the flesh” as a helpless human came into focus?
It works every time for me. It doesn’t mean that I won’t have to address any underlying issues between me and whoever. But it does tame the mean and vengeful out of me.
It makes me tender when I talk to a friend or family member about a testy topic. It helps me be kind to the cashier who has picked now to count out her drawer just as it’s my turn after I’ve been waiting in a long line. It moderates my reaction from road rage to a more appropriate and safe, “Oh, well!” when cut off in traffic.
It makes it easier for me to be gentle.
Gentle: 1. having or showing a mild, kind or tender, temperament or character; 2. moderate in action, effect or degree; not harsh or severe.
Truth is we are surrounded every day by people who are one unkind word away from falling apart. We drive down the highway with strangers whose lives are filled with pain. We work and eat and worship and play with folks who carry wounds we know nothing about.
I don’t have to understand everything about someone to appreciate that there is more than meets the eye. All of us have scars and secrets, stress and strain, unmet needs and unseen struggles.
So I try to give the benefit of the doubt, assume the best, extend grace, be humble, choose love.
I want to walk gently among my fellow humans.
At minimum I hope to do no harm. At best I hope to encourage another heart to hang on and keep trying. Most of the time I probably fall somewhere in between.