The late US syndicated columnist Sydney J. Harris accompanied his friend George to his favorite newsstand. George greeted the man selling the newspapers courteously, but in return he received gruff service. He barely acknowledged his customer and never even looked up at him when he requested the late night edition. Accepting the newspaper, which was shoved rudely in his direction, George politely smiled and wished the newsman a pleasant weekend. The proprietor grunted an indiscernible sound and seemed relieved that the two men had completed their transaction.
As the two friends walked down the street the columnist asked, “Does he always treat you so rudely?” “Yes, unfortunately, he does,” George responded. “And are you always so kind and friendly to him?” “Yes, I am!” George continued as they turned a corner. “Why are you so nice when he is so unfriendly to you?” With a look of deep contemplation, George explained, “Because I don’t want him to decide how I am going to act.”
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Who decides how you are going to act? Is it your circumstances or the difficult people in your life that determine your responses? When we allow our conflicts to control us, we behave as though getting rid of our predicaments is our only priority. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter how we treat one another.
For example, we say, “This person is causing me distress right now so I don’t care about exercising patience, self-control, and loving kindness. Instead, I want to let them to know how angry I am because of their actions.”
We forget our trials will eventually subside. But the way we handle conflicts will influence our lives for a long time. Will you only respond to the momentary crisis or will you be more concerned about the enduring value of what kind of person you are becoming? Who decides how you will act when the pressure is on?