If you ever think you’re too small to be effective,
you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.
– Wendy Schaetzed Leske
Imagine if everything you do and everything you say impacts the life of another person. A little scary, isn’t it? What if you were a cashier and a customer came up to you and yelled at you for something that you have no control over, how would you react? If you knew ahead of time the outcome of your reaction would you do it differently?
If you knew ahead of time that if you screamed back at the customer and got into an argument and that yelling match was the tipping point in their life and they went home and hurt themselves or someone else or a pet all because they were already mad and your reaction pushed them over the edge, would you react differently?
I’m not saying what another person does or does not do is anyone’s fault but that person’s – we all have a choice – but what I am proposing is that a negative reaction to someone behaving badly can influence them to do things that they may not normally do.
Conversely, if you reacted with patience and compassion to that person on the other side of the counter lobbing profane words your way, would it help them to calm down? Would it help diffuse the situation and keep that person from making bad choices? Should you even care about the choices they make?
It is not up to me to decide if you should care about how your life impacts the world around you. It is up to me to decide if I should care, and I am learning that I need to care. We are all interconnected in ways too minute and too vast to comprehend with my human brain. But I have seen this process at work in my own life and it is a little frightening.
It’s like the old adage, ‘sh*t rolls downhill’ or the comic strip that shows the boss yelling at the man who goes home to yell at his wife who in turn yells at the child who takes out his frustration on the dog. The poor dog got hurt all because the boss yelled at the man. Everyone in this classic scenario had choices as well – the boss could have decided to speak reasonably with the man; the man could have let it go; the wife could have forgiven the husband; the child could have hugged the dog.
I’ve even seen this process at work with my cats. Three of them are former feral and are not that affectionate. One, Toby, I raised him from a kitten and he is very affectionate and pliant. I like to hold him on his back and bury my face in his soft belly fur. He hates that but because I am his momma he lets me do it. If I hold him like that for too long (a minute or so is enough for him), he starts to squirm and the more he squirms the tighter I hold him. When I finally release him (why am I so cruel?) he is mad at me but he doesn’t take out on me because, after all, I am the alpha cat, but he takes it out on the first unsuspecting cat walking by him. He swings his paw, claws out and hits the mark every time. (Hmmm, after writing this, I won’t be doing that anymore!)
Anyway, this bears repeating – we are all interconnected in ways we are unable to comprehend. Everything I say and do will impact someone or something else in ways I do not know. It maybe a small thing or a large thing. And even though the other person’s reaction to what I say and do is not my responsibility, I am responsible for how I behave. I’ll stop now – the whole thing is folding back onto itself now and I’m repeating myself! But it is worth thinking about.
The Circle of All Beings, The Pachamama Alliance