Research professor and author Brené Brown says in her book Rising Strong that her work has taught her that people are doing the very best they can. She maintains that it's far healthier to see the world through that lens than seeing everyone with a suspicious and judgmental eye.
"As miserable as resentment, disappointment, and frustration make us feel, we fool ourselves into believing that they're easier than the vulnerability of a difficult conversation. The truth is that judgment and anger take up way more emotional bandwidth for us. Beyond that, they are often shaming and disrespectful to the person who is struggling, and ultimately toxic to the entire culture."
Wow, that's a lot to take in. Perhaps you have done what I've done: Moved from 0 to 150 mph to judgment when someone has made a remark or done something that we took as a slight. And where has it gotten us? Generally, nowhere helpful and positive. I like the assumption that we're all in this together and we're all trying our best just to survive and thrive. Compassion and self-compassion are essentials in our daily lives.
That said, Brown doesn't advise that we let go of boundaries and integrity. We don't want to be suckers or doormats. But perhaps we can lay down the assumptions that some people are out to hurt us or that they're jealous of us or that they intended to be mean and hurtful. It could make a difference in our day-to-day interactions. And surely in our attitudes!
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