Have you ever had times when every one and every thing is agitating you and you feel like what you most need is a vacation from people in general?
On a typical day, we all have an infinite number of opportunities to react to situations that trigger our own fears and insecurities. The driver who suddenly cuts in front of your car may spark you to react with an angry gesture; a work associate who adamantly disagrees with you may cause you to be overtly defensive of your own point of view; being on the receiving end of someone hurling cruel words may cause you to retaliate with a vengeful response; or experiencing a food server with a negative attitude may cause you to respond in an unkind, judgmental manner.
When you react to someone else’s fearful words and actions with the same defensive energy, you are perpetuating separation and adding to the negative energy of the situation. This ultimately results in everyone’s feelings being hurt, as well as a serious breakdown in communication. When you find yourself in a reactive mode and feeling pulled into other people’s dramas, it is a sure sign that it is time to expand your perspectives to focus on more than just your own personal reality.
Perspective is the overall viewpoint from which we see our world. We don’t actually see our perspectives. We look at life through our perspectives, much the same as we see through a pair of eyeglasses. While we cannot control everything that happens in our lives, each of us is responsible for choosing how we want to interpret and respond to life events and situations. If we change one letter in the spelling of the word responsible–to responseABLE–we are reminded that we are able to choose our responses to life. Since our responses are based on our perspectives, we are each able to change how we experience life in an instant by changing the lens through which we view our life experiences. Ultimately, we have a choice: We can view life from the perspective of fear, which results in mindlessly and defensively reacting to the negative energy of people and situations; or we can learn and grow from every person we meet and every situation we encounter by changing our view of life to see through the eyes of love.
Looking through the eyes of love is a conscious choice to perceive people and their situations with compassion and understanding. When you exercise compassion, you are empathetic because you are able to sense the feelings that are motivating another person’s actions, rather than judging their obvious outward behavior. Rather than focusing only on your own personal situation, compassion enables you to see a situation from the other person’s perspective as well. It is through compassion and understanding that you can resonate with another person’s feelings by remembering that, just like you, every single human being you will ever meet is also experiencing pain, sickness, and loss in their lives. You also begin to stop taking people’s reactions so personally – the way someone acts is a projection of how they feel about themselves – not an evaluation of your self-worth.
Choosing to perceive life through compassion and understanding, rather than judgment and defensive reaction, opens us up to a whole new vista of life. It is like looking through a special pair of eyeglasses that enables you to have an emotional x-ray vision that can see the issues of fear that are motivating someone’s negative and offensive behaviors. The person who cuts in front of your car may be going through a divorce; the work associate who relentlessly argues with you may have a serious mental imbalance; the person who is speaking to you with unkind words may have just lost her job; and the restaurant server who had a negative attitude may have just gone through the loss of a loved one.
I experienced the value of perceiving a situation in a compassionate way a couple of years ago when I was waiting in the checkout line of a local grocery store. The cashier appeared to be rude as she haphazardly threw the purchased items into bags and never once looked up to smile or greet any of the customers. I was fourth in line, and the annoyance and judgment of each person who preceded me intensified as the line progressed forward. When it was my turn to be waited on, I gently asked a simple question: “Are you having a difficult day?” The woman who was cashiering looked up and stared at me, her eyes brimming with tears. “It is more than a difficult day – I am so upset I can hardly breathe. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day my daughter was killed in a car crash. She was only 4 years old. I don’t know how I can even live through today.” My heart ached for this woman, and I found myself giving her a long, spontaneous hug. “Thank you for understanding,” she replied. As I left the grocery store, I was so thankful that I had not judged the cashier and had taken an extra minute to ask her that simple question.
When we choose to look at people and situations through the eyes of love, we are acknowledging that we are all emotionally vulnerable and that every one of us is experiencing tremendous challenges in negotiating our spiritual journey here on earth. Not only are we being kind to others, it is also one of the most self-fulfilling ways to honor our own soul.
I welcome you to share ways in which you are aware that your perspective has greatly influenced your relationships with others.
Love and Light