A Simple Phrase That Will Help You Not Take Things Personally

Did someone hurt your feelings?  Do you get annoyed or frustrated?  We all do from time to time — I certainly do, and while I keep telling myself not to judge others too hastily, I still find myself full of judgments and wraths for everyone around me.  Obviously there are moral and religious arguments against judging, but ultimately, such a thought disturbs inner peace.  It’s just not good for your own well-being.

But there’s one phrase I keep going back to, to mitigate this tendency to get worked up.

There must be a good reason.

It brings me back the story about a father and his sons on a train from Stephen Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The kids were acting up badly in public and the father seemed to do nothing about it, so Stephen confronted the man — only to learn that the mother had just died that day.

When people or situation get you worked up, you are choosing to interpret it in a personal way.  And while you have the right to think what you think — and you may even be correct in your assessment — the judgment, frustration, and resentment, they all disturb your peace.  It becomes your burden, because holding such a feeling inside is unhealthy and can build up to harm your health, mental and otherwise.  You then have to work to purge it.

One of my current annoyances is my 15 year-old cat, who wakes up every morning at 5:30am and starts meowing loudly, demanding fresh food and attentive company.  Many mornings, the first thing I do when I am awakened is to scold him for being so loud and obnoxious.  But while I haven’t figured out a way to reason with my cat that 5:30 is simply too early, I have been making efforts to understand his needs, which makes this morning ritual less annoying, and it’s definitely improving the situation.  Previously part of the reason he complained loudly was because he was constipated — so I took him to a vet and am diligent with administering herbs and supplements to aid his digestion.  And I feed him more at night, so that he is less hungry in the morning.  And when I do wake up, instead of scolding, I get down on the floor and spend some time being close to him.  This last act always gets a quick and dramatic change in his behavior — from loudly demanding to soothingly purring — apparently he really enjoys the connection of being close to our head/face.  He must feel distant and looked down upon, because most of the time we look down on him from some place much higher.

All right, I may be personifying my cat a tad too far, but what I did was to switch from annoyance/anger-based reaction to more open-minded inspection.  By assuming that there must be a good reason for his behavior — I was able to see beyond and understand root causes, the deeper needs.

Few of us aim to cause anguish, frustration or annoyance in others.  Actions are not born in a vacuum.  When you start from “there must be a good reason” you are:

  • being compassionate, which is a feeling more soothing and comforting to both the other party and yourself
  • showing openness and inquisitiveness to see beyond just surface actions and understand deeper needs
  • refusing to allow burdensome feelings into your system
  • practicing patience, and not rushing to conclusions tends to yield better outcome

As you can see, this is just a better place to start from all around, both for yourself and others.  It’s a simple phrase you can keep in the back of your mind, and liberally bring it out every time you encounter situations where you react negatively.  If nothing else, it helps you go about your day without straying too far from your sense of well-being.  And when you are calm, compassionate and peaceful, you have more capacity to make positive impacts in the world around you.

There must be a good reason why people do what they do.  Instead of getting annoyed, see beyond to the deeper reasons.  It helps you enjoy your day.

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One Response to A Simple Phrase That Will Help You Not Take Things Personally

  1. Jonathen says:

    Loved the post—keep up the good stuff. (Also love the website; its layout and style).

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