We have all been blindsided or angered by the actions of someone else. Whether it’s a co-worker, complete stranger, family member, companion or friend being a victim of “wrong-doing” happens to everyone. When you feel like you’re the target of another persons malice, the way you react usually determines if the situation will escalate. I am no stranger to checking people who have come for me, without me having sent for them. My attitude was fierce and I had knack for belittling and being condescending without ever having to raise my voice. I thought I was demanding respect and putting people in their place by sending out a clear warning not to mess with me. I was wrong, all I was really doing was magnifying my character flaws, but letting my anger control my actions.
I recently encountered a situation where someone took an illustration of mine, attempted to make changes to it, and take credit for my work. I was livid! As an Artist I was upset for a few reasons:
You wasn’t with me shootin’ in the gym!
My initial reaction was to go off, I was beyond angry. But let me tell you what I’ve learned about the Art of Choosing Your Battles, and why I didn’t.
1. You Are Not in Control
When you let how you feel determine what you do, you are not in control. There is a false sense of security in allowing yourself to believe retaliation is the proper reaction to anger. In other words, if you act up, and make impulse decisions to show yourself strong because someone has made you mad, you are putting your own weakness on display. There is no strength in hurting someone, because they hurt you. We all have emotions, and can’t always help what we feel, but practicing discipline and discernment helps determine our reactions. You have to learn how no to allow your emotions to get the best of you, and it isn’t always easy, but nothing worth doing usually is!
2. The Reaction Isn’t Always Worth It
Throughout the course of our lives we will always encounter people that disappoint, hurt, or anger us. The question becomes is the reaction you want to make out of anger worth the consequence? Even though is can be challenging, it helps to attempt to calm down. Once you calm down you have to take a few things into consideration:
A. Who is the person you are dealing with? It is a friend, a family member, or someone who cares about you? Is it someone you know personal? What is this persons behavior/character typically like? Are they going through something?
B. What was this persons intent? Was it malicious? Were you an intended target or a casualty? Knowing what happened, isn’t as important as knowing why it happened. When you know why you are better able to assess the necessary course of action or corrective and preventive measures.
C. What are you risking by taking you initial course of action? Does the action justify the reaction? What if you’re wrong in understanding the situation or details? How would you feel if the tables were turned?
Going back to my incident with the illustration. The person altered my design was:
He didn’t care about the integrity of the design, he thought he made it better, and just wanted to show off what he did, not considering how I would feel. So do I punish him and risk severing our relationship for that? No. I explained to him why I was upset, and asked him to take down the illustration.
3. Teaching > Punishment
Not everyone who does something wrong, or bad deserves to be punished, especially if they don’t, or you don’t know if they understand the magnitude of their actions. Unjustly punishing people can create a chain reaction of negative events, that you may not be able to undo. It’s like lighting a cigarette at a gas pump, there is a chance nothing will happen, but if the fire does catch it causes an explosion. We are all imperfect people and we all make mistakes, and we all intentionally or inadvertently have hurt or upset another person. Giving clarity and expressing why you’re hurt or upset can’t make a situation worse. It can actually help someone see where, or why they were wrong. We as humans take for granted that everyone else is or should be aware of what is common knowledge to us, and that simply isn’t true. Equally receiving clarity helps you heal as well, we all know that isn’t always possible; however if you open up the door of communication you more likely to get a favorable response, than if you stayed silent and took action. In most arguments, there are more teachable moments than there are reasons to go to War.
5. My Favorite 5 Letter Word
Oh Mercy, Mercy Meee
The last thing I’ve learned is Mercy. We all need to reciprocate it. There isn’t one person on this planet that doesn’t need mercy and forgiveness. We all need it, we all receive, and we all need to give it! God shows us mercy everyday and provides us with everything we didn’t earn, and don’t deserve. With the overflow of mercy I’ve received in my life, who am I not extend a fraction of that to someone else, especially if their intent wasn’t to hurt me? Believe, it’s easier said than done. The ability to show mercy is something that I am constantly learning, practicing, and praying for.
I know that this article doesn’t apply to every every battle.
There are times where you will have to go to war, whether by choice or force, but there’s an app for that too! Next time I will share what I’ve learned about the Art of War.