The Golden Rule says – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
That means, that we should treat others the way we want to be treated by them.
Now, most of us want to be treated with love, kindness and respect. But that’s not exactly what we give back each time we interact with people. For example, when we have an altercation with someone, there are times when our behaviour becomes adversarial, our tone sharp, we may become offensive or defensive, and in the heat of the moment we may end up doing something that we otherwise may not have done. We do this because we’re angry, we feel threatened, hurt, upset or even irritated. So, instead of responding in a situation, we often react instead, and then repent later.
Wait… what? Are reacting and responding two different things?
For example, if someone accuses you of something, your first line of action is generally to react by denying and then saying something harsh to the one who’s accusing you. That’s called a Reaction. What happens next is, both you and the accuser get into a verbal showdown, which leaves bitterness between two people, sometimes for years to come.
But the alternative to this problem is that you calm yourself first, understand why the accuser is saying such things, talk to the accuser calmly and try to reason out with him. This is a Response. In this situation, what may happen is that the accuser may calm down himself and actually listen to you, instead of being aggressive. You two may part ways on good terms and may even become the best of buds!
So, which scenario would you prefer? I think all of us can agree that the second is more agreeable, right?
But wait, who am I to sermonize over what you ought to do?
There’s an idiom that says – once bitten, twice shy.
I’ll give you an example from my own life and maybe then you’ll realise why Responding to a situation is better than Reacting.
I was best friends with a very loving, kind, funny and bright girl when I was in college. We got on famously right from the start and had even moved in together so we could spend the last year of college in each other’s happy company. She was like a Sister to me and I loved her a lot. And I suspect I meant the same to her too.
Then came a time when a very trivial and stupid misunderstanding between her and a mutual friend ripped us apart. I stood by her but at the same time I was torn between protecting her and defending the mutual friend, who had actually meant no harm. It was a misunderstanding, plain and simple, but she wasn’t able to see that. She instead accused me of being unfaithful and being a backstabber. Those words hurt me a lot and I put on my defensive armour and started accusing her of being blind and unreasonable.
The end result was, I ended up moving out of the shared flat; we stopped talking to each other; we stopped hanging out in the same circles, and even though both of us realized that we were being stupid, the harsh words we’d spoken to each other prevented us from ever getting back to the same plane that we shared. We weren’t really mad at each other, we were ashamed of saying such things to each other. But inspite of being ashamed, the chasm that had opened up between us was beyond repair. It was now about our bruised egos.
Friends tried to patch us up, including that mutual friend, but we were hurting too much. It still hurts, because she was the only one in my life who came close to being the ‘One’ best friend that we all seek in life.
What I did wrong was that I reacted, instead of responding. I didn’t try to reason with her, I didn’t try to understand where her accusations were coming from, I didn’t try to calm us down. I just chose to blindly speak my mind and cause her as much hurt as she had caused me by her words. I wanted revenge at the time.
But now I repent…
If I could turn back time, I would have done things a lot differently. We would have still been BFF’s, still graduated together, still gossiped about our love lives, still attended each other’s marriages and been privy to each other’s deepest secrets. But all that ended in one, hasty, angry evening.
I know it’s difficult keeping a level head when we face adversity. And sometimes, some situations just demand us to give tit for tat. But in the majority of situations, escalation of tension can be avoided if we remain calm and try to give a measured response to the instigator.
When we measure what we say, we are attempting to avoid bitterness and embrace compassion instead; we are making an attempt at being a better human being. And isn’t that the biggest lesson of life – to be a better human being? Isn’t that what the Golden rule I mentioned above all about?
So, the next time when you’re faced with a situation where you’re cornered and the adrenaline in you is screaming at you to lash out, tell yourself –
React and Repent; Respond and Rejoice!
I’ll leave you on that positive note and Kabir Das’ apt doha –
ऐसी वाणी बोलिए, मन का आपा खोय।
औरन को सीतल करे, आपहुं सीतल होय॥
(Speak words devoid of ego and harm, Words that calm them down, Words that calm you down.)
Own Blog – “The Pradita Chronicles”