Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Expectations -- Or, Let's Have A Little Heart

I am a sensitive person.  I think most people are pretty sensitive, even if they pretend not to be.  And in our sensitivity, sometimes we get our feelings hurt or become offended when it is uncalled for.  We look at an action or omission by a relative, friend, or acquaintance and take it as a personal affront, when we really should be looking for the reasons behind what a person does or doesn't do.  Because, at times, what we need to do is have some compassion on the person who has supposedly "offended" us. 

Let me explain, using examples from my own experience.

Now, I don't mean to excuse my bad behavior here.  If I had been a bit more organized and thoughtful, the following incident would not have occurred.  Be that as it may, though, this is what happened.  It was my first year of homeschooling my kids.  I was pretty dang overwhelmed, trying to do all the normal housewife things (shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, bills, etc.), while, at the same time, attempting with all my might to provide my children with a good home education combined with a happy social life and healthy activities.  I was going, going, going from morning until bedtime in a way that I had never done before.  And I was pretty exhausted.  Now, my mom's birthday is in November.  And I completely forgot about it.  No card, no phone call, no nothing from me for her.  So, my dad called me and pretty much chewed me out.  I felt and still feel awful about it.  But, it also made me realize something.  When someone does something that is UNCHARACTERISTICALLY rude or insensitive, it might be good to check with that person to see if he or she is all right before you become offended or angry.   Because, often, I have seen (both with myself and those close to me) that when the "normal" rules of etiquette are not being followed (birthday remembrances, thank-you notes, expected appearances for certain social events such as wedding or baby showers, customary phone calls...), at least sometimes it is because something is wrong with the life and/or health of the "offender". 

More recently, someone close to me has been undergoing some significant health issues.  She is having to take the time to address these issues with a professional, while simultaneously keeping up with her job and other life obligations.  It has been pretty tough and she is dealing valiantly with the whole thing.  You would not realize, by being in her company, that life has not been easy lately.  Apparently, though, she forgot to write a thank-you note to someone for a small gift that was given to her.  And the giver of the gift was letting me know about this.  Now, the recipient of this gift is usually right on top of her thank-you notes and other such niceties.  And the gift giver knows this.  So, instead of becoming irritated over some seeming "offense," maybe it would be better if said gift giver inquired as to the life situation of the seeming "offender."

I have had and been witness to many other situations such as these two.  I have been unwell and have known others to be unwell -- either spiritually, mentally, or physically -- barely able to keep up with the basic demands of daily life, when others (even close friends and relatives) become offended at our apparent social gaffes and use these gaffes as occasions to heap even more demands upon us, to let us know of their disappointment with our failures.  And it just makes everything that much harder.  It might even push some people over the ragged edge upon which they are currently standing.

Again, I do not mean to be making excuses here.  I am all for manners and considerate behavior.  But, if someone you know -- who is normally a polite person -- acts out of character in this regard or slips up a little bit, instead of taking it as a personal affront, try to realize that the person might be in a difficult situation herself.  Without bringing up her supposed failure, inquire gently as to how things are going in her life.  Maybe she won't want to talk about it, but a little concern instead of harsh judgement might go a long way in helping her heal or get successfully through a painful time. 

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