A suggestion that will make you a happier person and a more pleasant person to be around:
Judge others solely on their intent.
One night my friend and DJ partner, Bengi, we were heading to the shore to perform at a wedding. As we wound down a country road, I noticed a pedestrian on the side of the road in dark clothing. "Watch out!" I shouted, pointing frantically at the man.
"I see him," Bengi said.
"Don't be sorry," Bengi replied. "You were trying to save me from killing someone. I'll never get angry at you for trying to keep us safe. Never be afraid to point something out on the road if you're trying to help."
That moment stuck with me. How often in my life had a passenger pointed out a potential hazard on the road that I had already seen, and in response, I scolded the passenger, asserting my expertise in the process.
"Let me do the driving. Okay?"
"No one likes a a backseat driver."
"Did you want to drive today? I'd be happy to give you the wheel."
Yes, I had done that before. I had done it a lot. But Bengi was right. These passengers were just trying to keep us safe. Why be angry with them?
Why become angry with anyone who is trying to do the right thing?
This was the moment when I decided that I would try to judge the actions and decisions of others solely on intent. If a person or organization or even an animal meant well but the results turned out poorly for me, I would try like hell to refrain from anger, outrage, or complaint.
This means that when Elysha forgets to turn off the burner on the stove (which she has done from time to time), and I unknowingly place my hand on the 350 degree burner (as I have done several times) and spend the next hour wrapped in ice, I do not become angry. I don't complain.
She didn't want to hurt me. Her intent wasn't to leave the burner on. It was an accident. She was busy making dinner.
When my dog tears open the garbage bag that I left by the door for one minute while I was using the bathroom, I don't get mad. She didn't know any better. She's a dog. It's not her fault.
When my friend ruins the surprise party that I'm planning for my wife, I don't become angry or outraged. I may remind him of this stupidity (Tom) on the golf course and the poker table for years to come, but that is done in jest. In truth, I can't be angry at someone for making an innocent, albeit careless mistake, because he didn't mean to ruin the surprise.
When my boss reschedules a meeting for a day and time that is least convenient for me, I don't become upset, because she's not trying to ruin my day. She's solving a complex problem, and in the process, I ended up on the losing end of the deal. But she didn't want to ruin my day, so I'm fine. No worries.
This is how I have lived my life for more than ten years, and it has made my life decidedly simpler and happier. I am admittedly not perfect in adhering to this policy. I am much more likely to apply it to friends, family, and colleagues than the driver who cuts me off on I-95 or the slow moving players on the golf course.
But when it comes to people I know, my application of this policy is fairly consistent. As a result, I complain less. I am angry with friends and family far less often. I rarely hold a grudge. I really am a happier person.
This policy has worked wonders for me.
When I suggest this policy to friends, their reaction is fairly standard:
Aren't you special?. Apparently your achieved some level of self actualization that the rest of us may never attain. You are clearly so perfect in every way, Matt. How noble of you. Are you sure you're not the Son of God?
In order words, the policy strikes them as unrealistic.
Here's my issue with their response:
They declare this policy unrealistic without ever giving it a try. I explain my philosophy. Describe the benefits of adopting this policy. Suggest that it might be something they consider. Then without even a moment's consideration, they declare me holier-than-thou and dismiss my suggestion as nonsense.
I will never understand this.
People want to be happier. They want their lives to be simpler. Easier. They want to reduce conflict in their lives.
But so often, it seems as if they want this happiness in pill form. They don't want to work for it. They are unwilling to change. Experiment. Try something new.
Yes, my policy of judging on intent might make me sound holier-than-thou as I describe it, but in practice, it has made me a happier person. Less prone to anger, conflict, or grudges. I never appear holier-than-thou in the application of the policy. I'm simply happier. More forgiving. I don't complain. I'm far less frustrated or annoyed than many people I know.
It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This may be true, but when it comes to dealing with people who I know and love (and sometimes people who I don't know at all), I'm willing to risk a little hell, for their benefit and mine.