It’s safe to say you’ve been wronged in your life. Whether that’s being cut-off on the road, or much worse. It’s also safe to say you’ve wronged other people a time or two.
Human interactions are inherently messy.
We all come from different angles — with varying backgrounds, baggage, and paradigms. We have limited understanding for why people do what they do. Yet, we’re often quick to judge and belittle.
Admittedly, I’ve recently made some stupid mistakes at the expense of people at the New York Observer who are dear to me. Additionally, I’ve recently received harsh judgment and attacks from people I don’t know.
This article will:
- Improve your interactions in this messy and beautiful world
- Help you love and understand people who ignorantly and violently seek to harm you
- Help you better respond to your own foibles and inevitable mistakes
1.) People Are People, Not Objects Or Obstacles
“In every moment…we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t.”―Arbinger Institute
The moment you objectify someone, your heart is at war with that person. They are against you and you against them.
A large portion of human interactions are objectifications. It’s easier to stereotype others than attempt understanding them — to see “them” as fundamentally distinct from “us.” We are all guilty of this.
We can never exactly know how another person is feeling. Or why they do what they do. Or where they come from.
It takes extreme humility and character to:
- Forgive people who have wronged you, and to keep a dialogue open with them rather than completely shutting them out.
- Admit when you’ve been wrong, and do whatever you can to make amends.
However, both of these are necessary if we are to see others as people and not objects. Seeing people as people facilitates internal peace rather than war.
2.) Relationships Are Inherently Messy
“When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.”―Patrick Lencioni
The avoidance of messiness and conflict reflect a lack of trust and vulnerability. Being vulnerable, and trusting someone, is hard. But it is the only way to understanding and eventually intimacy.
Rather than avoiding the messiness of human interactions, we should embrace the messiness.
No one is perfect.
People are going to make mistakes that negatively impact us, often. We’re going to make mistakes that negatively impact other people, often.
We have no idea the demons other people are battling, or the trials they’re going through. Each and every person is on their own journey and deserves our support, rather than to be mocked and spit-upon.
What if, rather than gossiping, shunning, or hatred, our natural posture toward others was to seek understanding and provide grace?
What if, rather than having to walk on egg-shells in hopes that we never make a mistake, we were helped in our weakness? What if we helped others rather than crucified them?
To truly help someone requires loving them, not shunning them. Love dispels all hatred. The person of hate doesn’t know how to respond to love. It puts out their fire, and hopefully, creates a space where dialogue and eventually intimacy can ensue.
3.) When You’re Trying To Grow, Expect To Make Lots Of Mistakes
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”―Albert Einstein
It’s easy and safe to be a perfectionist. To hide on the sidelines where no one can see you. Or to point and laugh at those who are trying their best.
It’s much more difficult to actively seek growth. When you grow as a person, you become increasingly aware of your own short-comings. Aspects of yourself, which before were unconscious to you are now in the light — exposed and naked for everyone to see.
Additionally, when you try new things, you become aware of your own ignorance. You don’t know what you don’t know. And when you step out into the dark to learn something new, you often fall flat on your face. Which is why most people stay where it’s safe and convenient. It hurts like hell having to pick yourself up over and over and over.
How can you expect to grow without making mistakes? You can’t. And until you become okay with the fact that you’re going to mess-up a lot, you will remain stuck. As Tim Grover, author of Relentless has said, “If you can laugh at your mistakes, that’s confidence. If you fear mistakes, that’s a confidence problem.”
Personal growth is humbling and often humiliating. However, it’s better to be conscious than ignorant; even when consciousness comes at the price of comfort and convenience.
4.) Lessons Will Be Repeated Until Learned
“There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.” Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.” — Cherie Carter-Scott
Interestingly, we often have to relearn the same lessons in new contexts. When I first got married, I felt like I had to relearn even simple things, like how to do the dishes properly. When I became a foster parent, I realized how impatient I really am.
Different contexts highlight different aspects of ourselves, and challenge us to apply what we know in new ways. It is for this reason that certain quotes and scriptural passages provide new meanings throughout our lives.
5.) Most People Operate With A Scarcity Mindset
Most people believe there is one economic and social pie from which we must all compete to get “ours.” If someone else is winning, that must mean we are losing.
People with this mindset have what psychologists call an external locus of control. They focus on what’s not fair about the world. They see those who are successful as having privileges they don’t have.
Unfortunately, this perspective is incredibly narrow, and makes a person a victim. The only thing they are left to do is complain and criticize. Nothing of creative value can come from this paradigm. It’s suffocating for both the victim and everyone around them. But misery loves company.
However, when you see the world as abundant — and that your ability to succeed is an internal, not external battle — you can genuinely be happy for the success of other people.
Other people’s success has nothing to do with you. And until you realize that opportunity is everywhere around you, you will remain a victim.
6.) It’s Better To Dive Into Messy And Ruined Stories Than To Seek Comfort And Convenience
People often ask how my wife and I became foster parents. We’re treated as though we are saints for what we’re doing, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
We feel like our kids have adopted us, and that we’re the lucky ones. Actually, it’s scary to imagine where I would be as a person if I hadn’t been a foster parent the past 15 months. Without question, I’d be drifting further along the American dream of comfort and convenience.
And I don’t want comfort or convenience.
When we choose to enter people’s broken stories, we are the ones that are benefited. Rather than judging or condemning others, we should help them. When we do, we will find more joy and meaning than we ever could by remaining isolated and disconnected.
7.) We Don’t Have To Support Poor Behavior, But We Should Always Support People
Jason Johnson, an activist for foster care, tells the story of adopting his daughter. At three days old, and addicted to a number of drugs, his little girl entered his care. 11 months later, Johnson was in court where the imprisoned father’s parental rights were on trial to be terminated.
Unexpectedly, Johnson was called to the stand.
He was asked, “Mr. Johnson, do you love the girl who has been entrusted to your care?” When he answered, “Yes,” understandably, the father became very angry and shouted profanities from across the room.
The final question Johnson was asked was, “Do you believe it is in the best interest of the child for her father’s rights to be terminated?”
In that moment, a wave of thoughts rushed through his mind. He determined that although he was not “for” the father’s behaviors, he was absolutely for the father himself.
The father wasn’t his enemy. Rather, hatred, darkness, and evil were Johnson’s enemy. He wished no ill-will toward his little girl’s father. Thus, despite having to honestly confess that the father was unfit to be in his daughter’s life, Johnson felt love and compassion for the man who now hated him.
When people wrong us, we can and should hate their behavior. But we should never hate them. Instead, we should be “for” everyone. Indeed, in the eyes of God, every person is priceless. And hopefully, hopefully, we can at least attempt to see people from that perspective.
8.) What Other People Think About You Will Sometimes Hurt, But Don’t Let It Stop You
Naturally, people will disagree with you, and thus, polarization is also a natural effect. We all come from different backgrounds and see the world differently.
Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they are wrong. Indeed, the people who criticize and hate me probably have merit for doing so. And I’m not mad at them for their viewpoint. I am completely fallible and know many of my current paradigms will evolve and change over time.
The more clear your message/viewpoint becomes, the more polarizing it will be. Watering-down what you believe in attempts of pleasing everyone ends up pleasing no one.
Even still, it can be extremely difficult being the victim of hatred and hostility. But you can’t let it get to you.
You can’t let it stop you. That’s exactly what your detractors want. Don’t let their smallness and hate stop you from doing something beautiful.
You need to become un-offend-able. That is pure confidence. It doesn’t matter how demeaning or ridiculous people are toward you, nothing can offend you. Because indeed, no one can offend you. Being offended is a choice.
Even though you shouldn’t care what others think about you, you should absolutely care about them. Consequently, you should never strike back against those who hurt you. Instead, remain open and inviting — providing them grace— in hopes that a healing dialogue may one day ensue.