As much as we’d like to, we can’t control how others treat us. Fortunately, we can change the way we react to how we are treated.
Jessica Eaves, a woman from Guthrie, Oklahoma, grasped this concept while out shopping one day at a grocery store. She realized that her wallet had been stolen and immediately knew who had done it as she had passed only one other person in the store. How she reacted is a perfect example of turning hurtful behavior into a positive interaction.
Instead of calling the police, she confronted the man. She informed him that she thought he had something of hers and that if he gave it back, she would pay for his groceries. If he didn’t give it back, she would call the police.
Without hesitating, the man handed her wallet back and apologized multiple times for his theft. As they walked up to the front, he cried openly and told Eaves that he was embarrassed by his criminal behavior. She upheld her part of the bargain, paying for $27 dollars’ worth of his groceries for items such as bread, milk, crackers, soup and cheese. According to a Daily News article, the last thing the man said to Eaves was “I’ll never forget tonight. I’m broke, I have kids, I’m embarrassed and I’m sorry.”
Eaves turned a naturally hurtful situation into an opportunity to be generous, telling reporters and probable critics that “sometimes all you need is a second chance.”
Opportunities, Not Offenses
This story is one that has inspired me. It can be difficult not to be offended by others’ behavior, especially when it is harmful to you or your loved ones. However, Jessica Eaves’ unconventional reaction sparked such a grateful response in the would-be thief that it made me look at offenses in a new way. It reminded me of recycling in that I could take something undesirable and turn it into something useful.
What if all people started seeing offensive behavior as opportunities to assist others?
Attitudes and actions naturally produce likeminded attitudes and reactions, so it is normal to feel like lashing out after someone slights or cheats you. If we could control these emotions and intentionally shift them into positive mindsets, we have the ability to stop the cycle of negativity. The offending party’s outlook can change dramatically for the better, such as in the above example.
If we always wait to let the other person respond in kind, how are we helping the situation? We aren’t. We are only perpetuating the Ping-Pong battle of anger and offense.
However, if we model the way that we’d like to be treated by reacting with generosity or a helping hand, this can open the other person’s eyes to how they need to change. They react positively because it is natural to do so.
This concept isn’t a new one. The Golden Rule states: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Unfortunately, this rule isn’t followed very often. Negativity is too often answered with negativity, which creates an ever increasing cycle of hurt and blame on both sides. If we took The Golden Rule a step farther and started viewing slights and offensive behavior as a chance to make the world a better place, then we wouldn’t be so offended by them. We might actually begin to look at them as an opportunity for us to better the world.
It’s amazing how simply changing a thought process can result in such drastically different outcomes. Once we have this mindset, the hurtful situations life throws at us become less frustrating. So, in addition to helping others, we would also be helping ourselves become less angry and unhappy.
Recycling isn’t just for physical garbage. It’s a concept that can help us turn the emotional garbage that we all struggle with into something beautiful.
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