Being first to reach out

Because each one of us is a unique human being, different from others in our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes toward other people and the world around us, it stands to reason that differences, even resentment, will arise - especially toward those with whom we interact on a regular basis.

I am thinking particularly of family members, relatives, and friendships that are important to us. And when differences arise with others, even in a small and seemingly insignificant matter, it is important how we deal with the differences.

In his book, Don’t sweat the small stuff, Richard Carlson discusses such situations, and he has some helpful suggestions. He writes: “So many of us hold on to little resentments that may have stemmed from an argument, a misunderstanding, the way we were raised, or some other painful event. Stubbornly, we wait for someone else to reach out to us - believing this is the only way we can forgive or rekindle a friendship or a family relationship.”

He gives the example of someone he knew who was not in very good health. The person told him that she had not spoken to her son for about three years. She mentioned that “...she and her son had had a disagreement about his wife and that she wouldn’t speak to him unless he called first.”

Carlson made the suggestion that she could be the one to take the initiative and call him. At first she rejected that idea and said, “I can’t do that. He’s the one who should apologize.” She felt so strongly that, as Carlson said, “she was literally willing to die before reaching out to her only son.”

But after Carlson gently encouraged her to take the first step, she did so. And she was amazed to find that her son was grateful that she had done so. He responded by offering his own apology.

Carlson goes on to say, “Whenever we hold on to our anger, we turn ‘small stuff’ into really ‘big stuff’ in our minds. We start to believe that our positions are more important than our happiness. They are not. If you want to be a more peaceful person, you must understand that being right is almost never more important than allowing yourself to be happy….”

“You’ll also notice that, as you reach out and let others be ‘right’, they will become less defensive and more loving toward you.”

The well-known philosopher, William James, once said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his (or her) life by altering his (or her) attitude.”

May it be so for us!

Harvie Barker is a local resident, and writer of inspirational messages. Email: harviebarker@shaw.ca