You know the guy. He flies by a line of cars crawling to an exit ramp on the Interstate and dives into a slot 40 cars ahead of you. Or it’s that woman who stands proudly in the “12 items or less” aisle at the grocery store with what looks like enough food for the 3rd Battalion. Obnoxious. Period. You can get furious and let it ruin your day or you can take another approach that involves taking a look at yourself.
A couple of things come to mind when dealing with obnoxious occurrences. Note that I’m calling them occurrences as opposed to people. People are obviously instrumental in these scenes (symbolically representing all sorts of negatively judged scenarios) but it isn’t the person that’s the problem. It’s the event.
Statistically we know events occur that range from one end of the “good for us” spectrum to the other—the “lousy for us” end. Thinking of this range as a bell curve, we can see that most of the events that impact us fall in the middle, from slightly good to slightly bad for us. Say plus or minus one standard deviation.
But then there’s the really bad thing… like the texting teenager who rams your new car with 27 miles on it. Or the really good thing, like a stranger running after you to give you your forgotten credit card.
These instances both involve people… people behaving badly, or nobly. I have a choice when these things happen. I can blame (or credit) the other guy. Or I can understand that a vast array of things happen to me… all day… every day… for my whole life.
I want to let you read a little Carl Jung:
We can get in touch with another person only by an attitude of unprejudiced objectivity. This may sound like a scientific precept, and may be confused with a purely intellectual and detached attitude of mind. But what I mean to convey is something quite different. It is a human quality—a kind of deep respect for facts and events and for the person who suffers from them—a respect for the secret of such a human life. The truly religious person has this attitude. He knows that God has brought all sorts of strange and inconceivable things to pass, and seeks in the most curious way to enter a man’s heart. He therefore senses in everything the unseen presence of the divine will. This is what I mean by “unprejudiced objectivity.” It is a moral achievement on the part of the doctor, who ought not to let himself be repelled by illness and corruption. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and fellow-sufferer. I do not in the least mean to say that we must never pass judgment in the case of persons whom we desire to help and improve. But if the doctor wishes to help a human being he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is.
Here’s the “aha” for me. I’m the perpetrator in other people’s adventures.
Yes, I’ve been that guy who was in a hurry and zipped by the stagnant line of commuters only to dive in at the last moment (hard to believe, I know). I’ve been the insensitive commenter about things my wife has said or done. I’ve impacted the days of others in negative ways. I’ve even disrespected umpires at Cardinals baseball games!
To Carl Jung, I’m just a statistic of the universe. And so are all the other obnoxious folks running into me out there. We’re all flawed. So at any given point in time, we can be obnoxious.
It reminds me of John 8:7: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” When I take this approach and I respect Ruiz’s Four Agreements, I realize his second and third agreements (“Don’t take anything personally” and “Don’t make assumptions”) point out the most productive response I can have to obnoxious people.
Don’t take it personally. Don’t make assumptions.
For me, this requires purposefully staying out of my Knower/Judger mode because I’ll only react automatically. From my Learner/Researcher position I see the incident as just that—an incident. Taking things personally and making assumptions are behavioral properties of the K/J.
So next time you get a finger pointed at you at work by an obnoxious co-worker, or overhear a loud F-bomb at a restaurant when your children are at the table, know that, per Carl Jung, it’s the “unseen presence of the divine will.” Shit happens. Sometimes, to other people, you’re the shit! I know I’ve been!