Desiderata – 2


As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

A timeless reminder to show respect and courtesy to all, as you would wish it for yourself.

This is especially true of family. Although there are indeed times when we must stand our ground on important issues here too, we seem to think we have a right to treat family members less well than we would a stranger.

These family members, whom we love, particularly the children, we should be treating with the most patience and tolerance and understanding.

Love is …

Love is patient, Love is kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends

Instead, we belittle, we scold, we nag, we vent our frustrations and irritations and we humiliate and denigrate those whom we often care for the most, – adults and children. We use words as weapons to win the battles we think we need to fight to prove we are better than they. We use sarcasm to jab the arrow in deep.  There is little tolerance or patience or understanding once the demon takes hold.  Where is the thought of “walking in their shoes”?

First scenario: a child accidentally knocks over a drink at mealtime.

What do you tend to hear?: “You stupid child”, “why could you have not been more careful”, “so clumsy”, “you are nothing but trouble”.

Apart from feeling horribly embarrassed by the accident, the poor child now has indictments heaped upon its head many of which are just the adult venting frustration without thinking and without really meaning it literally.

Second scenario: a dinner guest accidentally knocks over a glass of red wine (onto your white tablecloth or white carpet !!!??).

What do you tend to hear?: “Don’t worry about it”, “I’ll fix that”, “It was just an accident” – ensuring minimal embarrassment for our guest.

We consider it bad manners to embarrass a guest.  To the “guest” we are   most conciliatory – while silently cursing under our breath at the inconvenience.  Why is it not equally “bad manners” to vocally embarrass a child in a similar situation?

Part of it might be if one were brought up in an authoritarian household where children were to be seen but not heard, do as one was told – or else?

The only power women had was within their own domain – the household. Any mistake of the child was seen to be a mistake by the adult/parent – regardless of the effect it might have on the child.

Many of the adults of that time came from a very different headspace and a very different world, almost a different dimension, albeit living in the same house you might live in now.

I was guilty of a lack of such awareness at times in my early parenting days (- and I still hear shameful echoes occasionally -) until someone pointed out these scenarios to me. I was mortified that I could think, (by exhibiting a thoughtless reaction to just such an accident), that my child was less important to me than a guest and those were lessons I needed to learn.

From that moment on I began to change – for the better I hope.  I am learning to separate the person from the action – a clumsy action does not make a person wholly clumsy, etc.

Instead of using thoughtless and hurtful preprogramed responses, I have
learned to say, (after taking a breath), something along the lines of: “Oh dear, never mind, let’s get something to wipe this up”. My child is an (almost) adult now, so my reaction normally is – with a smile and compassion – “OK – You spilt it/broke it/whatever – you can fix it – do you need some help with that?” – allowing her the responsibility of dealing with whatever, but with a helping hand available if needed.

There was also a TV program I saw once, some years ago, where adults were put into everyday situations – such as sitting at the breakfast table and having breakfast – where everything had been scaled up in size as though the person/s was a child – at different ages – i.e. about 4-5 years; about 7-9 years. I am not sure of the particulars – suffice that it illustrates my point. The “adults” were eating at the most awkward angles – wrists at shoulder height, cups and cutlery uncomfortable in their hands, things on the table difficult to reach easily or smoothly.

It was a real eye opener to a child’s world, particularly when coupled with understanding the age related developments of the brain.

It is still a conscious task for me to curb instinctive knee-jerk (verbal and attitudinal) reactions when things aren’t as I think they should be – when someone (I love) does not behave as I believe an adult should, in whatever circumstance is current – because I think they should know better  It is so easy to just vent your irritation and sarcasm.  It takes constant mindfulness to not do so.

There has been a huge, more mainstream, shift in consciousness, around the turn of the millennium, which I believe is for the better and is expanding. With the information explosion, we have become enlightened about many things hitherto unknown.

We now know the process and sequence of the development of the human brain and understand that humans have little understanding of consequences of their actions until they are about 25 (and sometimes not even then). This front portion of the brain is the last to develop and the first to be affected by abuse of substances – hence when drunk, who cares about consequences, there is no future past the present moment .

I think I have gone off track here somewhat and down a path that opened up in front of me…  so  …

 As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

As regards the broader field of “all persons”…

This does not mean that you should take a beating, or compromise your integrity to just let the other person win, but many situations can be diffused with calm and patience and tolerance, and reason, and then no one gets hurt. When these things don’t work, sometimes it is better to walk away and live to fight another day. Other times though, one must stand one’s ground. The wisdom is to know when to do which.

God grant me the serenity:
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can: and
the wisdom to know the difference.

Sometimes it helps to realise that the other person is not really your enemy.  His attack on you is usually not personal – he is just lashing out.   He is but another hurt and lost human being, only thinking that he must fight his way through situations because he doesn’t know any other way.  He may not necessarily be “reason-able”.

Acknowledgement of and sympathy for the other person’s point of view – particularly before you spout your point of view – will go a long way to diffusing discord and aggression.  One doesn’t have to win every argument.  Sometimes it is OK to be wrong.  Sometimes you can walk away knowing/believing you are right and also knowing the other person is never going to acknowledge your point of view – at least not now.

This is where you …

 Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,  Even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

I have noticed that when someone speaks quietly, and clearly and with integrity, at the appropriate time in the conversation, others willingly listen and contribute equally.

Surely it is relative as to whom is dull and whom is ignorant.  Someone who appears dull to one person, is fascinating to another.  A person who may appear ignorant may in fact be most knowledgeable on a number of subjects – given a chance to participate or in a different environment.

The discussion does not need to descend into a noisy battleground, or escalate to who holds the high ground in the discussion. One is more likely to be taken seriously if one does not rant and rave. People of intelligence and education should not need to rant and rave, they have other skills in their tool box – like reason and manners…

How often do we actually listen to another – with our full attention – without one eye/ear on something else, or running other conversations in our mind at the same time – whether they be prejudgements about the current speaker and his conversation, or topics on a totally different subject.

We each have our story we want to tell, our point of view to express – we each fall into the category of “the dull and ignorant” at some time or other with someone or other – and yet still insist on saying our piece, because we believe it is the most important thing we can say at that moment, and our “listener” just NEEDS to hear it – whether he wants to or not.

To us, our story can be just so much more important that anyone else’s. Have we been guilty of drowning out another person’s story with our own?  It is not a nice thought.

Sometimes the other person’s story is much better, sometimes even more important, than our own.   If only we would stop talking, mentally and verbally, long enough to listen….

Which leads nicely into …


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