I have a problem which I am trying to fix. I tend to have expectations of people and situations only to be disappointed and – at times – totally stressed out about it. I have learned that I can’t possibly be the enforcer of manners and expectations of people to do their jobs.
My wife and I talked about this recently and decided we would try a new approach. Instead of being frustrated with the actions of others, we have tried to take the attitude to “let it go”. Our happiness can’t be dependent on holding others accountable for when they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.
This past weekend I saw an example of positive reinforcement in this area when my wife and I were seated at a restaurant for lunch. We were seated next to a table of about five of six teenage boys. I know both of us were thinking “oh great, this isn’t going to be fun”. Much to our surprise, the boys were not unruly or disrespectful at all to others around them. In fact, it impressed my wife so much that when they left she followed them out and complimented their behavior. I’m sure those guys didn’t know what to think about that.
I have had the opportunity to practice this “let it go” thing many times. I must confess that it doesn’t come easy for me. Someone once accused me of always trying to fix things and right things that I saw were wrong. Yep, that’s a serious flaw I have. I’m trying to do better. When I had to call a contractor to come to take a look at some heating issues at our house, I prepared myself mentally in having low expectations with their service. This same company had been out before and all the fussing I did on a previous service call accomplished absolutely nothing. Sure enough, they came out and gave some bogus excuse for not doing the work and they left. I simply let it go. Was I happy about it? No but I was prepared for it.
Then after being out of work for a week, I had hoped some things would be covered and discovered they were not. I could have fussed and complained but I haven’t — yet. I expected it and came into it with low expectations.
I am seeing that instead of fussing at bad behavior that recognizing good behavior seems to do a whole lot better. So, I would say that looking for reasons to compliment someone might be a lot less stressful than fussing at people who disappoint us. The toxic people in our lives really aren’t worth the fuss and we are the ones that end up messed up over it anyway.
Let me just assure you that this “let it go” thing isn’t easy. It takes work. It takes a conscious effort to do it. Sure, my first reaction is to rip into someone who isn’t doing their job or a situation that is not acceptable. It is the realization that I no longer live in a time where manners were important and being respectful was common. In fact, common sense isn’t very common anymore. It simply doesn’t exist in abundance which is all the more reason to recognize the positive when it happens.
I was really impressed with my wife and how she complimented those guys at the restaurant on their good behavior. I need to be more like her. She has a big heart and is not afraid to express herself in that way. We both have had our frustrations over people and situations in the past. We have found ourselves trying to correct bad behavior or try to get people to see what they are doing. You know what? People don’t care. You can confront them, reason with them and even show them and they are simply going to do whatever they want to do.
It’s still going to bother me when people say the F-word. I’m going to be irritated when someone presses the elevator button when it has already been pressed. I still won’t like it when people refuse walk on the right side of the hallway. I will still get ticked when the contractor is lazy and won’t do their job. It’s still going to be difficult when I get lousy service at a restaurant. I never said I was good at this letting go thing. I’m just saying I’m giving it an effort.
And I still don’t like Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Seriously though, if we all tried to look for good then there would be hope for us yet. None of us like being disappointed and we all have expectations that aren’t always met. That’s life. Crappy people and things happen. The recipe for a happy life is to not let external things hinder that happiness. I’m not saying we should all float around saying “It’s all good”. One of my relatives used to say that all the time and it made me sick. No, it’s NOT all good. Let’s don’t go to the other extreme either. There are times where confrontation is appropriate. I can tell you that I’m not going to whimp out when it is time to confront someone but I will pick my battles a little better now.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)