A Beautiful Thing
Do you tend to see the best in others, or are you more skeptical and judgmental by nature, especially when someone is expressing unbecoming behavior or an opinion which differs from yours? Do you characteristically jump to judgements or conclusions without taking the time to ask yourself why they may believe what they profess, or what may be going on in their world causing them to act in an abrasive manner ? Or do you choose to seek to understand? Do you display empathy, compassion, and understanding, being the first to attempt to de-escalate an unpleasant encounter or remain open-minded and willing to hear what they are saying? If your reply is the latter, I applaud you for being other-centered even though it may not always be easy. When choosing to seek to understand rather than judge and be offended, one is expressing love out loud and displaying a unique capacity to genuinely care for people in a way that will certainly be A Beautiful Thing and create a more beautiful world in which to live. It also communicates that you believe not only the best in other people, but you also believe the best in yourself.
These character reflection questions are often highlighted when encountering difficult people, especially while in the midst of heated conversations or heightened emotional circumstances. Choosing to believe the best in others in the midst of painful words or hurtful actions does not imply you ignore their faults or misbehaviors, but rather that you purpose to recognize their unacceptable behavior comes from a place unfamiliar or unknown to you. It may be that they hold a different perspective than you on certain matters, or that their process for communicating emotions into words and actions may be pain-driven. They may be experiencing self-doubt and feeling especially vulnerable in the moment of conflict. One thing for sure; you are not them, so you really have no idea what they are experiencing or feeling internally. You are only seeing the outward expressions of what they are experiencing inwardly. The choices you make when encountering such challenges will have a direct impact on the resolution of the situation and your general perspective on the outcome.
The choices we make about the beliefs and behaviors we bring into our world impact our interactions with others in every way. They color our conversations. They influence our responses. They impact the quality of our relationships.
Following are Four Questions to ask yourself when seeking to believe the best in difficult situations:
Am I seeking to judge rather than understand? Am I choosing to care that this person is acting out in pain at this moment? Pause and consider what they may be going through. Ask yourself if they could be feeling vulnerable in this situation and are acting out as a defense mechanism. Are they feeling backed into a corner by others expectations of them? This is difficult, but purpose to see what is right in their behavior rather than what is wrong. Be quick to extend grace. It is always easier to highlight differences and draw attention to misbehaviors rather than celebrate commonalities and praise decorum. Also, seek to make a connection. Remember, no one is perfect, and we are all human. Everyone is entitled to a bad day and to their own opinions. And we have all displayed emotion-driven poor behaviors and communicated misguided or incorrect views at some point in our lives...some more than others. And we have all experienced the beauty of undeserved grace!
Am I feeling vulnerable in this situation? Am I making this about me at the moment, or am I choosing to acknowledge this person is hurting and I can help? Own up to any defensive feelings you may be experiencing. Such defensiveness could stem from your own insecurities and possibly hinder your ability to accurately respond to the reality of the situation. Pause and assess what you are feeling and why. At this point, it may be wise to take a moment and reflect on what you believe about YOU and on what you spend most of your time thinking. If you desire to believe the best in others, you must begin with being honest with yourself about what you believe about yourself, on what you spend most of your time thinking, and what you are telling yourself. You will not have the capacity to believe the best in others if you do not first believe the best about you. This exercise in reflection can prove powerful in recognizing the value of positive self-talk and "protecting your thinking." Unhealthy thinking and negative self-talk can become a pattern and has the strong ability to turn one inward-focused. It can turn you into the person you do not choose to entertain! Conversely, believing the best in yourself and others will foster beautiful relationships for a lifetime! You become the person that engages to help, not condemn.
Am I giving my power away, or am I choosing to grow by seeking understanding? When we become angry or victimized and react to someone's poor behavior or differing views with more poor behavior and hurtful counter-views, we are giving them our power. It is when our power to ease the unpleasantness and rise above is surrendered that we begin to feel threatened. When this happens, we are communicating our lack of desire or emotional ability to rise above the conflict. We are choosing weakness. When such weakness is exposed, defeat is on the horizon and meaningful relationships will suffer. This surrendering of power can become a vicious cycle. It may eventually lead to perpetual differences and unresolved issues which ultimately negatively impact relationships and the overall quality of one's life. The power to which I am referring is humility. Humility can turn bad situations into meaningful interactions. It can turn differing views into beautiful differences!
Am I choosing to communicate to this person that they are valuable to me in this moment? It is at this moment that you can communicate true value, empathy, and compassion to the other person. Value and care isn't dependent on behavior. It is a product of embracing humanity...of which we are a part. I recently heard a statement that spoke to me about relationships, "One goes where they feel welcome, they stay where they feel valued." I do not know who made this statement, but I believe it to be so true. If someone feels valued, especially when they have been extended grace and compassion in the midst of unbecoming behavior, they are more likely to communicate the same value they feel and extend grace to others in their time of need. Can you imagine a world where people fell valued and communicate worth and value to all, regardless of differences? What a beautiful world it would be!
We have all been around people who present as critical and judgmental. No one chooses to be in the presence of people with such a nature. However, people are drawn to the type of person who is quick to communicate affirmation and understanding. One who is quick to extend grace.
People who make you recognize your value and important place in this world are rare and beautiful treasures. Also, being made to know you are beautiful in the midst of an imperfect world, full of imperfect people, can compel one to become inspired to reach for greater heights than they previously thought possible. They know they hold a valuable place in our world because of who they are...not because of how they are. And perhaps an unexpected reward for choosing to believe the best in ourselves and others could be that our own capacity to genuinely care about people reaches new heights. And that would truly be A Beautiful Thing!