Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I'm Having a Bad Attitude

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”

George Santayana

“Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.”

Francesca Reigler

I’m having a bad attitude.  The reasons don’t matter.  I might be tired, hungry, bored, or restless.  At the heart of it, I’m not getting my way.  I’m not getting what I want.  I feel frustrated.  This causes my bad attitude.  Sometimes, it’s good to express what I feel, but when I’m having a bad attitude, it’s often best to stay quiet and let it pass.  The more I feed a bad attitude, the stronger it grows.  Sometimes I don’t get my way.  Sometimes I shouldn’t.  Sometimes what I want isn’t what I need.  But I need to understand what I want and be able to express it clearly, at least to myself.
Once, when I was visiting some friends for a few days, my hosts wanted to go on a long hike.  I didn’t want to go and I said so, but they kept asking and finally I gave in.  I was furious, first at them, for continuing to ask after I had already said no more than once, but more so at myself for giving in to the constant requests.  My fury went inward and I stayed sullen through the entire trip to the hiking spot.  We had to drive up a series of winding hills to get to our destination and soon I was not only angry, I was carsick.  Worse, my stress and carsickness were causing me to have vertigo. 
When we got out of the car, everyone began hiking, but I felt so sick that I could barely walk.   I was trying to not throw up.  For every ten steps my hosts were taking, I could take only one.  Finally, after about ten minutes, I couldn’t go any further.  My hosts were far ahead of me, but all I could do was sit down on the side of the road and lie down for several minutes on each side, as my doctor had recommended for vertigo.  After about twenty minutes, I started to feel better.  I caught up with my hosts.
Then an amazing thing happened:  my vertigo vanished completely.  I felt great!  I soon started running and jumping and taking pictures.  We saw wild horses and met a family who lived on the mountain.  I took pictures of sheep and of everything I could.  It was one of the best days of my trip.
So was I wrong?  Perhaps that isn’t the best question.  Perhaps it wasn’t a matter of right or wrong.  Perhaps it was just a matter of two people wanting different things.   When this happens, there are only a few choices:
1.     One person gets his or her way, because the other person gives up out of fear, intimidation, exasperation, conflict avoidance, or convenience. 
2.     Both get a little of what they want, (but often not enough).
3.     Both work out mutually satisfying compromise.

The word “compromise” usually has a negative connotation, leaving one or both parties feeling like they didn’t get what they really wanted, which is why I added the words “mutually satisfying.” 
“Love, honor, and negotiate,” is a phrase I once heard.  This doesn’t apply only to marriage, but to all relationships.  “Love” is the interesting word.  Does it mean that I allow the other person his or her way just to love that person?  Sometimes.  But if I can’t do that peacefully and completely, that’s a sign that I’m not loving myself.  I’m not listening to myself and I’m not acknowledging my own wants or needs.  This quickly leads to resentment and frustration (on both sides). 
I remember how angry I felt with myself on that drive up the mountain.  I started hating myself, and this led to all kinds of other negative thoughts about God and people.  I felt like people were too hard, too demanding, and wanted too much from me.  I also felt selfish and that I was being incredibly rude to my hosts who were kind enough to invite me not only into their homes, but also into their lives.
That is one thing to remember:  someone has invited me into his or her life to some capacity.  It may be a professional relationship or a personal one, but someone has extended at least a small amount of grace towards me.  Can I extend a larger amount in return?  Or can I least acknowledge it?  In the case of my hiking hosts I might have said, “I appreciate your invitation, but I’m really tired and I wouldn’t be very good company.  You have a great time.” 
I might also have said, “I appreciate your invitation.  Thank you for wanting me to come along.  It would be fun to be with you.  Let’s go!”
Had I given either of these answers in a complete state of love and peace, I would have been in integrity with them and with myself.  In his book The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships, and Our World, David Gruder discusses how many of us are out of integrity not only morally, but physically and spiritually as well, because we don’t take care of ourselves on many levels. By not stating my true needs and desires I was out of integrity with myself and this literally made me sick.
It’s also helpful to remember that I don’t have to have my own way all the time.  I could have gone on the hike thinking, “This isn’t really what I want to do, but my hosts will enjoy my company and I will defer to them out of love (not conflict avoidance or fear).”  This solution would have made me happy because love always makes me happy.
Fortunately, God loved me enough to redeem the day.  It ended well and I had fun.  I know that I would have also had fun had I chosen to stay back.  Or I might not have and I might have learned a valuable lesson.  Either way it was a good lesson on how to Get Started and Keep Going…and how to change a bad attitude.