I was sitting on my veranda, drinking tea with a friend and enjoying the beautiful ocean breeze. And that’s when I heard someone shouting my name from the street. It was a neighbor, who we’ll call Jim, and he was upset. Very upset. “Who do you think you are?”, he screamed as he walked up my driveway. There had clearly been some sort of misunderstanding but Jim was so angry that he just kept shouting, without giving me the chance to clear things up.
My mind wanted to react and I felt a thought form: “What an a**hole!” But I resisted the temptation and instead, took a deep breath and remained fully present in that moment. I completely stopped listening to the words coming out of his mouth. I realized it wasn’t about me. This man was drowning in anger, resentment, pain, sorrow. I could feel it all as I tuned-in to his energy.
I then took a deep, conscious breath. As I inhaled, I visualized myself breathing in his anger. And on the exhale, I gave him love and compassion. And I followed up with these words: “I’m very sorry Jim if I offended you. It was not my intention.” Immediately, his energy changed. It was as if I had just burst the bubble of resentment he lived in. He was speechless. And right away I could sense that this man had never been shown kindness or compassion before. He didn’t even know what to do with the energy of love I sent his way.
He just stopped shouting, got into his truck, and drove off. Just like that. The next day, I was running in the mountains with my dogs, when I spotted Jim’s truck driving toward me in the distance. “Oh God, not again!” Just as I was hoping that Jim would drive right by and ignore me, he slowed down and came to a complete stop. He rolled down his window and looked at me. “Good morning Christina.” His eyes were filled with tears and I could sense this man was trying to apologize. He just didn’t know how.
He had never apologized to anyone before. So I helped him out. I reached through the window and put my hand on his heart. “It’s ok Jim. Everything is ok.” He smiled and I could feel a huge load lifted from him. And just like the day before, he drove off without saying another word. For days after that encounter, I thought deeply about what it all meant. It was without doubt, one the of the most impactful moments in my life. And I use this episode frequently, when teaching about the transformational power of love and compassion.
My neighbor Jim showed me why we don’t need to get angry at rude people. And I’ve listed them below– along with specific ways in which we can better respond to a rude person, when we encounter them.
1. They are in pain.
I noticed this very quickly with Jim. His anger wasn’t really toward me, it was a more general resentment toward life. I knew a little bit about his situation to understand what may be causing this resentment. But even if you don’t know the rude person, you can safely assume they are living in pain. Why? Because whatever someone throws out in the world is always a reflection of what they feel inside. I felt compassion for Jim because I acknowledged how crappy it must be to live with such high levels of anger on a daily basis. And I consciously chose not to add to that anger by reacting in like fashion.
Tip 1: Take a deep breath and repeat this mental statement, or mantra: “I acknowledge and feel your pain.”
2. They may be simply passing on what they receive from others.
We communicate energetically with each other all the time. And we’ve all experienced this. Why do you feel great when you are in the presence of a happy person? And why do you feel drained when you go out to coffee with a Debbie Downer? It’s because we all absorb and share energy back and forth. Perhaps Jim had just had an argument with someone else and was just passing on that energy to me. Who knows.
What’s important to realize here is that we always have a choice on whether we want to perpetuate an energetic cycle of anger or love. We’re not robots and we can absolutely break the cycle of anger if we want to. With one breath, I was able to completely deflate Jim’s anger. And we all have that power.
Tip 2: Inhale and visualize yourself breaking the energetic cycle of anger or resentment. Visualize yourself inhaling the negative emotion and then exhale love toward the person.
3. They unconsciously feel they deserve to live like this.
Life is made up of choices – both conscious and unconscious. And for so many of us, our lives are spent operating on auto-pilot. Perhaps we were mistreated as children. Or maybe there’s just an underlying sense of unworthiness. Whatever the reason, rude people tend to behave in the same way they unconsciously believe they deserve to be treated.
Tip 3: The best medicine for unconsciousness is awareness. In other words, become intensely present and send the energy of compassion toward the rude person. Follow up with this mental mantra: “You deserve kindness and compassion.”
4. They are reacting from the ego, not responding from the heart.
There’s a difference between living life from the heart versus the ego or mind. The ego is a reactive mechanism, sort of like a guard dog. Its job is to attack first … ask questions later. The heart operates in a completely different way. The heart is the seat of love and compassion. It has a broader perspective on things. It doesn’t react to life, it responds to it. A rude person is simply operating from a strong and reactive ego. But underneath that ego is the consciousness of love, which is really what we are all made of.
Tip 4: Actively acknowledge that you are choosing to respond with your heart, not react with your mind. You can do this by repeating the mental mantra: “I am present and listening with my heart.”
5. They can change in an instant.
That is exactly what happened to Jim. One day he’s screaming and angry at me, the next he’s at peace and has tears in his eyes. This is the power of unconditional love. It’s transformative. So never assume a rude person will be like that forever. We all have the capacity to change. Try to always look upon another person with hope. New beginnings can be just one moment away. Or one day away, as was the case with my neighbor.
Tip 5: Repeat this mantra: “We all have the capacity to change.”
6. They are unconsciously asking for compassion and kindness.
Underneath the thick armor of ego lies a tender heart. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to see the heart, the consciousness within, because the ego is covering it up. That was certainly the case with Jim. With every nasty word he was screaming at me, I felt my own ego wanting to get sucked into the drama. But we can train ourselves to be what I call “Soul Seekers”. A Soul Seeker is someone who can see past the ego. They have X-Ray vision that can spot pure consciousness in another person, even if that consciousness is cloaked over with anger and resentment.
Tip 6: Repeat this mantra: “I am a Soul Seeker and I see the beauty in your heart.”
7. They may be showing you something about yourself.
Life is constantly mirroring things back to us. It’s also constantly testing our level of awareness. Whenever we find ourselves in a loving, peaceful situation, we can safely assume that love and peace exist within. But the opposite is also true: if we find ourselves in an angry situation, we can assume anger exists in us on some level. This became clear to me a few days after my encounter with Jim. I was meditating and I noticed some anger surface, when I rehashed the whole episode in my mind.
Tip 7: Sit in silence and alone for a few minutes and close your eyes. Use the power of your awareness and scan your body for any points of tightness. Anger frequently gets stuck in our muscles. You can follow up with this mental question: “What am I angry about?”
8. They are your greatest teachers.
Oftentimes, personal growth and evolution of consciousness comes when we encounter painful situations in our lives. People who upset or hurt us are often the ones who teach us the most about life. They challenge us to see our own inner darkness and force us to choose how we want to live life. Do we want to live from the prism of ego and be reactive? Or do we want to live from the prism of the heart and be responsive?
Tip 8: If you find yourself confronted by a rude person, take a deep breath and repeat this mantra: “What are you here to teach me?”
In the end, I am so very thankful to my neighbor Jim for teaching me so many lessons on that day. From him, I learned the power of unconditional love. And everyday I choose to pass that on to others.
Be brave. Choose love. Even when anger seems easier.
Featured photo credit: The Way of the Exploding Fist via flic.kr