In her book “The Happiness Project”, Gretchen Rubin says

it takes at least five positive marital actions to offset one critical or destructive action so one way to strengthen a marriage is to make sure that the positive far outweighs the negative.”

Personally, I think that is true for all encounters, not just marital relationships. The quote stuck in my mind and I had reason to recall it again not long ago when I came across a news video segment titled “People Outraged About Bikers Jumping Over Homeless.” I’d seen the thumbnail for 3 days on the news page before I actually broke down and clicked it in a moment of weakness. I knew it had to end badly. I’d been resisting for a number of reasons not the least of which included I’m tired of the overuse of descriptive words like outraged. Everyone’s outraged about something or someone. I mean there was no way this was going to end well. It didn’t.

The outrage came both from the video and the fact that a store called OSS had posted it to their FB page and even after negative feedback refused to take the link down. Ok, played out pretty much as I’d expected. Yep, it frustrated me, took my happy down a notch, reminded me that we might all have the potential to be wonderful people but we all can screw up and make choices that don’t end up with that result. There’s always hope though right? Wasn’t really feeling it at that moment though.

That was the blow to the gut, but I didn’t see that upper cut come outta no where. I swear. What landed me on my keister was the responses condoning the actions. No, not just condoning or taking the “who cares” attitude, but the posts that showed absolutely no respect for the fact that these are people. Absolute disdain; no empathy, compassion or dignity offered. The negativity and hatred and arrogance spewed really amazed and disgusted me. The number of people who justified their position with flawed reasoning like, “instead of complaining why don’t you go out and help the homeless yourself!” Having taken the 2 minutes to watch the news video did exactly what I thought it would, I looked at my glass and the glass that had been half full that morning stood exactly as it had then, but now it was half empty.

I tried to shake it off but I had a hard time keeping the feelings of disappointment and hopelessness from creeping in. I worked, I distracted myself, I smiled and it kept bubbling up.  The blog “Gotta Find A Home” had showed me that homelessness was so much more complex than the trite opinions I’d read on the FB posts. I tried writing about it but I felt preachy.  I was angry, I felt guilty.  Then I remembered the quote from “The Happiness Project”; 5 things to offset 1.

It was time to debrief.

And it worked. While I didn’t forget about the situation (obviously) I was able to own my own baggage and let OSS and the bikers own theirs. Are they horrible, evil mean spirited people? Obviously.  Well, probably not really. At least not most of the time. And if they are? Maybe this experience will serve as a catalyst for a future change for the better for them. Maybe for me, or even maybe for you. Or maybe, for all of us. Who knows? So what have I been reminded of?

  • Be extra conscious about what I choose to say and do and how it may be interpreted.
  • I can’t make choices for other people but I can choose how I react to them.
  • Focus on the difference I can make, not the difference someone else isn’t making.

I take it back. Maybe it did end well after all.

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©2014 J Fries/Rise Like Air