Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

One of the biggest reasons that relationships suffer is that we want to control the behavior of others. We want people to act the way we would like them to act, and we rail against them if they don’t.

But the reality is that we can’t control other people. We can try, but it is a massive waste of time.  I can express my disappointment or displeasure over someone’s behavior, but expecting my comments to change their behavior is delusional.  My comments may change their behavior. But it is just as likely that my comments won’t have any effect at all.

The problem is that when our comments have no effect, we take it personally. “If you loved me, you would stop doing X.”  “You don’t respect me, and that is why you do X.”  The reality is that people behave in stupid, thoughtless ways because they choose to be stupid and thoughtless.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with you.

Since we can’t control how other people act, what do we do when their behavior is annoying or just plain wrong? The best thing we can do is to ignore them.  And then do what we want.

Let me give you a simple example. My daughter generally keeps her room clean.  She makes her bed every day and tidies up.  But sometimes, her room goes haywire.  Having a room in my house that is messy gets on my last nerve.  So I have two choices: I can nag her to clean it up, or I can just do it myself.  9 times out of 10, I just do it myself.  Why?  Well, it isn’t a teachable moment.  She is in high school and is a straight A, honors student.  She intellectually grasps that her room is supposed to be clean.  So I can exhaust myself nagging her, or I can take all of three minutes, and do it myself.  I’d rather just do it myself, and enjoy my home.

Let’s say someone is rude to you.  What do you do then?  Again, ignore them.  It is not your job to set people straight if they are rude or obnoxious.  Their behavior is only a minor irritation to you.  However, they have to live with themselves all the time.  For instance, I was out shopping the other day, and a lady in line told off the store manager for not having enough cashiers.  All I could think was, “How sad it must be to be you.  You can’t even wait in line patiently.  Instead, you have to embarrass yourself by making a public fuss.”  The manager of the store was very polite to the customer, retrieved more cashiers, and otherwise kept a smile on her face.  She ignored the behavior and didn’t let it get under her skin.

However, what do you do if someone’s behavior is so bad that you simply cannot be around them anymore? The answer remains the same.  Ignore them, and do what you want.  But “doing what you want” may mean eliminating that person from your life.  That sounds harsh, but is it?  If my behavior really upsets another person, they are more than welcome to tell me, “I don’t want to deal with you anymore.”  Then I have the option of either (1) trying to salvage the relationship by apologizing and changing my behavior (if I’ve done something wrong), or (2) allowing the relationship to end.  The choice is mine.

This week, consider whether you are pointlessly expending energy trying to change the behavior of others. Take that energy back, and spend it on yourself.  Ignore people if they aren’t behaving well – they don’t need your attention – and then do what makes you happy.

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