I would not have gotten where I am if it was not for a few lessons in emotional intelligence. I grew up in a family of girls, strong girls. So I had to be strong too. I appreciate my siblings every day because in their strength they also faced their weaknesses and fears. I have seen them go through seasons that would have broken lesser persons but they came on top swinging and winning. For a while I did not understand that they were not naturally strong, I thought they just were strong and therefore I had to be strong too. And so I put on a brave face often. Until I finished the education system and realised that it’s not that simple.
The lesson that I recall almost on a daily basis is that it’s not always about me. And when you are aware of this fact, it is amazing how wide the world is when you get over yourself.
I am blessed though and in my blessing, I have found myself in the right place at the right time to grasp the right opportunity. I got to go through a few personal development classes which taught me a lot about emotional intelligence. The lesson that I recall almost on a daily basis is that it’s not always about me. And when you are aware of this fact, it is amazing how wide the world is when you get over yourself. For example, taking offence. The key is in the phrase itself- “taking offence”. It’s a perfect example of how we choose to give others power over our thoughts. There is a mind-shift that comes with the understanding that a person’s actions speak more about them and their values than it is a reflection of yourself. You CHOOSE whether or not to be offended. My life coach (kind of) gave a simple example: if someone calls you a dog in insult, does that really make you a dog? Of course not. The person is calling you a dog with the intention to provoke you, right? What you do next, is up to you: blow up back at them or stay in control of your emotions and stick to your truth.
I was not emotionally intelligent back then so he did get to me and I snapped and said some terrible things. I look back on that incident sometimes with regret.
I worked in a warehouse once, for a month, packing exam papers that were being sent to a war-torn country by an NGO. The team consisted of 10 strangers with the common factor being that we were mostly young guys out of campus looking to make an extra coin. There was this one guy who seemed to make it his mission in life to annoy everyone. He was insulting and couldn’t decide between childish annoyance or exaggerated arrogance. I was not emotionally intelligent back then so he did get to me and I snapped and said some terrible things. I look back on that incident sometimes with regret. On the one hand, he stopped slacking off his share of the work after my telling off. On the other hand, I think he had an inferiority complex and my tirade probably just fueled his victim mentality.
Contrast with this story, one of my current workmates is a saint. She told us a story of how, when in campus, the Christian Union chairperson told her that “she needed to tone down her happiness. She was too much. She should be calm, pious and quietly prayerful like the rest of them.” She laughed then and of course told them deuces (millennial lingo for “I will not deal with this”). She is a joyful person and that was not going to change. To this day, it definitely has not changed. The Chair got some food for thought because, for those of you who are Christians or spiritual, it is written in many of the sacred texts, perhaps in different ways, that the joy of the Lord is your strength. I believe he backtracked on his direction and invited her back without further judgement.
We don’t all have the grace to be the bigger person, but if you do, don’t hold back for you don’t know how far the ripples could extend to.
Two scenarios to get you thinking about dealing with an offence. With age comes maturity (for some, let’s be realistic) and now I look at people and extend grace that perhaps, no definitely, there is a deeper struggle in everyone’s life. I try to do the best I can to show no malice lest I become part of the problem. It’s not easy but I sleep well at night knowing that I made a good effort. We don’t all have the grace to be the bigger person, but if you do, don’t hold back for you don’t know how far the ripples could extend to.