OK, confession time.
I’m not perfect.
Whew! I’m glad I got that off my chest.
Seriously, I have a couple of buttons that when pushed, cause me to lose my objectivity. Well, let me rephrase that. There are scenarios where my reactions are out of proportion to the situation. I guess nobody is really pushing my buttons because the only “button” I have is a belly button and it would be pretty silly to think that someone was trying to push that.
Here are my overreaction scenarios. 1. When an injustice is being done. 2. When said injustice is being done to me.
OK, maybe that’s just one scenario. Nonetheless, I always seem to overreact when I feel that someone is treating me unfairly according to universal, time-honored standards of behavior. Let me give you an example.
At the airport a few days ago, two lines of passengers were passing through security and then merging into one x-ray machine line. After people in each line showed their identification, they would take turns placing their bags on the conveyor belt. You can probably guess where this is going.
When I got to the conveyor belt, I let a woman from the other line in front of me and then prepared to step up behind her. But before I could do that, the next woman in the other line placed her bags on the table at the end of the conveyor belt without even making eye contact with me.
My first and more generous thought was that she was simply resting her arms while she waited for her turn. Then I realized that she was going to cut in front of me.
My mind went into overdrive. I thought, I can’t believe this. She’s going to ignore the obvious sequencing pattern and cut in line. It’s not her turn. It’s MY turn. I mean, come on, we learned how to take turns way back in kindergarten. It’s not fair to cut in line. What crazy travel world does she live in where it’s OK to cut lines? Doesn’t she understand what “alternating” means? It means taking turns. And it’s not her turn. She better back up and step away from the table before I tell the TSA agent on her.
Did I mention that I tend to lose my objectivity in this particular type of scenario?
Well, before the offending woman could actually move forward, I stepped up and took my rightful place in line. She gave me a look as if I had just stepped on a kitten. Knowing that she thought I had done something wrong, I clarified my actions by saying, “I think we’re alternating.”
She said, “Well if you’re in that big of a hurry, then go right ahead.”
I said, “No, I’m not in a hurry. We’re alternating. In other words, we’re taking turns. See, I let that woman go before me and my wife will go behind you. We’re alternating. We’re taking alternations…uh, I mean, turns.”
She said, “No, it’s fine. Go ahead if you’re in such a hurry.”
At this point, let me emphasize that she clearly did not take responsibility for the fact that she was trying to cut in front of me. If there is anything that bothers me more than injustice, it’s people who fail to take responsibility for their injusticing. Plus, she was suggesting that I was the one who erred and that I was in such a hurry that I had cut in front of her. Are you kidding me? This is an injustice of the Nth degree (not sure what that means but I needed emphasis). I WAS NOT CUTTING IN LINE. I WAS ALTERNATING.
Pardon me for a minute while I take a Xanax.
I’m back—and It will probably come as no surprise to you that, in hindsight, I have a slightly different take on this unfortunate situation.
First, the woman in the airport line was in the wrong. She was not following the rules and clearly, I had the right to take my place in line exactly as I did.
But second, and this is more important, I did not have the right to engage in a verbal altercation with her in an attempt to force her to admit that she was wrong. That part of the equation was my issue, not hers. My goal went from taking my place in line to shaming her. And that approach may have been a worse offense than cutting in line (I strongly doubt it but I’m trying to win my integrity back here).
When I feel that someone has treated me wrongly or that someone believes something untrue about me, I want to correct them and make them repent. While I’d prefer that they admit their gross negligence and pledge to never disrespect me again, I’d be happy if they just took responsibility for their actions and offered an apology. But that’s just my neediness rearing it’s ugly head.
I can’t control anyone else’s behavior but I do have control over my reaction. The more mature, more evolved, and more compassionate reaction is to treat people with respect and dignity at all times. And when I do that, the result is almost always good.
In hindsight, when I saw the woman putting her bags on the table, I should have simply said, “Please, go ahead.”
Would that be adhering to the alternating rules? No. Could that suggest that others could cut in front of me too? Sure. Does it make me wait longer in line? Perhaps for a minute or two.
But, a kind and respectful approach would have created a positive vibe that is really needed in the world today. There are too many people who are looking for a fight—on social media, in customer service situations, and in airport security lines. I suspect this comes from stress, inner turmoil, or just a need to feel superior. But the fights just make things worse.
Believe me, I’m not perfect. I wig out when I should stay calm. That’s why I’m sharing this insight with you. If I process my own experiences here, and show you where I stumbled, perhaps it will help you see opportunities to change your own approach. Most importantly, however, it makes me accountable for my behavior.
So, the next time someone cuts in front of me in the airport line, I will try to change my reaction and look for the more dignified response. I’ll nod, let them go ahead, and then trip them as they pass by me.
OK, I still have some work to do.