A very long time ago, when I was a boy, I spoke with my father about mean people and I attempted to discover why people are mean. The advice that he proffered was a psychological landmark for me at least for a while.
My father sagely suggested to me that unless someone lifted my wallet that I should not care too much about what other people think, say or do.
As a child, as hard as I tried to adopt my father’s advice, most of the time I failed. Mean words and deeds still hurt. In my work with young people over the years, I can see that words still hurt just as they did many years ago.
As an adult, I have found my father’s advice was sound though I needed to gain some life experience before I could understand his philosophy. Though he did not explain it in such words, I think he was telling me that I had a choice not to care so much what other people said or did.
Now fast forward about twenty years and I am working as a salesman for an electronics company. I was in a district with a Salesman that put my father’s philosophy to the ultimate test.
Mark was 30 years old and the best salesman in the district. Mark was willing to do anything to win; he lured established accounts away from other salesman by spreading gossip or making false promises to make a sale. Tom, the District Manger, claimed Mark as his protégé and frequently referred to Mark as his best salesman. When Mark, predictably, got a big promotion, he was the youngest salesman to ever get his own district to manage. Mark was not stupid, rather he was self centered, mean and, in my judgment, unhappy. In spite of the general dislike of Mark, he was given a going away party by the district sales team.
Unknown to me and the sales team, Mark had also attempted to assassinate Tom, the current District Manger and his biggest promoter and supporter. Near the parties end, Tom presented Mark with a plastic knife and the card read, “I removed this from my back, I am pretty sure that you will need it again.”
We all laughed, including Mark, and this was an ah-ha moment for me. While Mark was being roasted, he laughed right along with us. He chose not to be unhappy that none of us respected him. Mark paid a heavy price for his self interested behavior. Though he was barley 30 years old, Mark suffered from frequent bouts of diarrhea, and I noticed that always noted the location of the nearest bathroom. He was an insomniac, suffered frequent, unusual rashes and muscle aches in his legs. I doubt that Mark had any insight into the relationship between his meanness toward others and the maladies that plagued him.
While Mark is an extreme example, most of us are bothered by little insults, small acts of lack of consideration and betrayals of trust placed in someone. In putting my father’s advice into practice, I found that I could exert much more control over my emotions than I previously thought.
Each of us can make a conscious decision to be in a state of bliss and I believe that as humans, bliss is our natural state. At some point, I found an ancient Chinese proverb that expressed my father’s intent, “show the strength of water as it flows, for to stand is to be crushed.”
When a bad event or situation confronts you and anger begins to rise up in you, imagine your anger flowing away as it slowly dissolves into peace. There is no eternal happiness, it is not necessary to work at making ourselves happy all the time but rather that we learn not to make ourselves unhappy all the time.
For some, sacrificing their bliss may be worth the cost. Some will sacrifice their time with their children or spouses, giving their best energies to their work.
Each of us must define our bliss in our way. If you lose your bliss to a major life event, a death, a serious illness, a divorce or other life altering event than your grief and anger is legitimate. If you find yourself being tortured by the ill words of others around the water cooler or the baseless gossip of heartless fools, than you are giving over your bliss thoughtlessly and cheaply.
Remember, the gossipers and purveyors of meanness do not like you and probably not themselves. I suggest that unless someone lifts your wallet that you let those that would speak ill of you see that you won’t sacrifice your bliss to their cheap and thoughtless words.
Remember, all kids count.
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