A recent writing prompt posited, “What makes you angry about the world?”
My immediate reaction to this question has been, for as long as I can remember, “Unfairness.”
I’m not talking about the large-scale inequalities in the world. These are huge issues that great people are working hard to change, but this is not the type of unfairness that raises my hackles on a daily basis.
It’s the petty, pointless, unfair treatment of someone else for what seems like no reason at all.
It’s cutting off the driver of that other car so we can be one car length further in front (usually despite the traffic being stopped anyway).
It’s getting upset at a waiter / barista because he made an honest mistake with our order.
It’s humiliating a student in front of the whole school congregation for not complying with some arcane rule.
It’s avoiding a local business (and advising others to do likewise) based on rumour and gossip.
All of these little moments seem like nothing much, do they? After all, each day is hectic, filled with important tasks, lists, contacts and to-do’s and we’re all trying to get through the day the best that we can. Do these little things really make that much of a difference?
I believe they do. I believe unless we can individually, and collectively, break free of what drives us to act unfairly to others, we stand little chance of creating better lives for ourselves and others.
Think about it for a minute. Even if you are ‘in the right’ in the scenarios I described above, does this really improve your energy, your emotions, your anxiety, your day and your life? I know when I’ve been in this position, I usually end up feeling sick to my stomach. When I’ve been on the other side of the coin too, it hasn’t felt any better – ‘moral victory’ or not!
When I finally managed to catch myself I realised what was really driving my need to feel powerful and important in these moments.
At the heart of all the moments when I felt it was my right to be first / correct / listened to / loved / etc, lurking underneath it all was deep-seated fear – “I might be late, I might get yelled at, I might miss out, I might not be good enough, she might leave me, he might get hurt, I might not fit in, etc”. I hate feeling afraid, so I react in an effort to avoid the fear.
It’s no wonder we feel this way. We are bombarded with external pressure constantly telling each of us, “You’re the most important person in the world. You deserve the best. You just need to do more, have more, be more. Once you do all that, you’ll finally be happy and unafraid.”
But it doesn’t work. We’re being sold a lie which keeps us afraid, all as encouragement to buy and consume. We need to break this fear by ourselves, by acknowledging the impact this fear is having on our lives, and then begin acting from a different rationale.
Let that other car in front of you with a friendly wave. Take a break while waiting for your order to be remade and enjoy the sights and sounds around you. Demonstrate true servant leadership to those in your care. Give the local business a chance despite the rumours. And remember to take a deep breath!
Not only will you feel better by releasing the pressure inside, you’ll soon realise that you are enough and you have enough. Enough that you can give to someone else. And I guarantee it will make them feel better too.
I can’t help but feel that we, as individuals, as a culture, and as a world, will be better off when we treat everyone else fairly. Because, when you add it all up, society is not something separate from us. We don’t stand apart from society. We are society. Each and every one of us. And when we starting treating others as if they ARE us, then together we are all unstoppable.