One evening in my local grocery store, I was shopping in the Italian food section. A few aisles away, a child was in the middle of a loud tantrum. Just as the extra-loud part of the tantrum revved up, a southern grandma walked by me. She was wearing a frumpy sweater and odd-looking pants, and walked with a slight limp. She had heard this child (along with everyone else in the store) and commented aloud as she passed me, “Somebody oughta just whoop that child and teach him a thing or two.”
You know how a whole lot can go through your mind in a few quick seconds, including detailed visuals?
To me, this grandma was a little
scary. I found myself thinking maybe she was limping ’cause she had whooped a
few too many in her day. Or maybe she had underestimated one
“whoopee” who had whooped back. Maybe she’d whooped so many, she’d
over-exerted. Perhaps it was her calling to whoop. Maybe she was a grandma that
whooped her whole family regularly, and had done so that very day even, and now
she was tired and limping.
I wondered what it was like to be a child in her home. What was her point of view on cruelty and kindness? How had her parents treated her and what had she concluded from that treatment? Had she changed over the years, and if so, how? As you can see, I was on a roll in my imagination. She seemed disgusted, angry, old and tired.
Then I noticed my Inner Guidance kick in—and it threw a flag on the play. A whistle blew right there inside me in the grocery store and my awareness snapped to attention. “Oh, there it is!” I thought. “I’m manufacturing a negative story about this grumpy grandma.”When I imagined her possible past evils, I felt negative emotion.
How did my Inner Being throw a flag on the play? By me experiencing a negative emotion. The grandma’s some-body-oughta-whoop-comment in passing required nothing from me. I could have received it, accepted it, let it go. However, I made up a judgmental story in my mind about her, and my Inner Being let me know (through negative emotion) that I did that.
Because I was paying attention
(good for me), I noticed the negative thoughts (judgments about Grandma) were
followed by negative emotion (ouch in my heart). In other words, it hurt to
think what I was thinking. My thinking caused me to come to conclusions about
her, which created an outcome—I felt stressed. Afraid. Worried.
Imagining the grandmother’s past
actions showed up as a tight heart in me. Wasn’t it good of my faithful
guidance system to alert me about my thinking? Believing my thoughts about Grandma
(my made up, stressful opinions) wasn’t going to help me or her, or any of
those already whooped children in any way.
I stood still for a while after she walked on. I didn’t respond verbally to her, but she knew I heard her—we made direct eye contact. I took a moment to notice I was not in a state of love or acceptance. I also noticed that I preferred to return to a more loving state within myself, if at all possible. My way of finding my way back to center, to God, to Love, is to get quiet. So I got quiet. No use having two people in pain.
Limping Grandma reminded me of a truth: thinking unloving thoughts is like giving yourself a good whoopin’.
Silently, I thanked her, and said a
little prayer right there in the grocery store holding the pasta sauce that had
not yet made it into my cart. It must have looked a little odd, me holding
marinara sauce in quiet contemplation. In these ordinary moments, a grandmother
in pain becomes an unlikely angel. After all, she gave me one of the best
reminders possible about how to be gentle to myself, and I listened.
What a beautiful gift this unhappy, oddly dressed, limping, stern woman with missing teeth gave me. She reminded me that I have access to wisdom within. Because of this grandmother, my thoughts turned to masters like Jesus and Buddha and Muhammad and the blessed Mother Teresa, right there in the middle of an ordinary evening of food shopping in my local grocery store.
One thing I was pretty sure of:
this grandmother was doing the best she knew how.
I thought about how Mother Teresa visited the sick and suffering and simply opened her compassionate heart. She received them with love, nothing but love. I decided to become Mother Teresa—at least give it my best shot. I can tell you that pretending to be Mother Teresa relieved the pain of my judgment.
Grazie, sei molto gentile. (Thanks, you are very kind.)
Today, I’m sharing a story about how I accidentally accomplished something on my bucket list. I ran through an exit gate while looking the other way. The hood of my car is scratched up, and one windshield wiper is a mess, but let’s have a good laugh about how we never expect what “getting what we want” includes!
It seems to be a growing fad these days to call someone a narcissist, or declare they are toxic.
Political name-calling is similar—we assign politicians and voters to categories, and brush them off as if they are unintelligent, inferior, or even worthless.
By labeling others, we miss their humanity. We gloss over their struggle, their best effort at dealing with life. We dismiss them.
We do to them what we believe they are doing to others.
Look past a label, and in the soft light of day, there stands a person like you or like me, coping as best they can. At the end of the day, no friend, parent, or lover making conscious choices intends to be mean, or to ignore, or to embellish. There is always more to the story.
If we label others, then for sure we label ourselves. We trap ourselves into believing we are less than. Or not enough. Or we don’t give ourselves the time and forgiveness to work through our “stuff.” Maybe, if we stopped accusing others of narcissism, we could forgive ourselves for those moments when we were narrow-minded, inconsiderate, or afraid.
When it comes to labels, nobody wins.
So, my dear people, I suggest we peer a little deeper into ourselves to investigate a need to separate ourselves from others by tacking them with a label filled with disdain or scorn.
It is my wish that you view this video and take it to heart.