Life Is Various Shades Of Gray
I think Gwynn and I must have been short of things to talk about this past week as our conversation turned to the world wars. I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of history is a little less than stellar. Gwynn, on the other hand loves learning about it and is quite knowledgeable.
We got talking about different leaders, what they did and how each of the wars progressed and what eventually led to their end. I found it interesting when discussing it how we automatically want to categorize or label people and events into:
- good or bad
- us and them
- winners and losers
- right and wrong
Using the wars as an example, there are obviously two sides but who’s “right” largely depends on who’s side you’re on and what your beliefs are. If you were able to be completely neutral you would see that both sides consider themselves “right”. They are each fighting for something they strongly believe in – something they are passionate about.
It’s not uncommon for us in our day to day lives to categorize people we know and interact with into similar categories as well.
- good parent or bad parent
- selfish or selfless
- nice or mean
- hard worker or slacker
The list of categories can go on.
People are complex and to lump someone into just one category is entirely unfair.
Take someone who has wronged you or a member of your family. Your initial reaction may be to label them as hurtful, inconsiderate, and selfish. For this to be true this person must have never done anything caring, selfless or considerate and I think if you look hard enough you’ll find that with most people that simply isn’t the case.
Harboring these hard feelings against anyone is doing yourself more harm than good. It really and truly doesn’t affect the one these feelings are directed at in the least. The best thing you can do to help yourself move on and be happier is to let it go – see the action as their shade of gray.
Letting go by identifying shades of gray
When someone does something we label as bad, we tend to categorize the person as bad as well. But is this entirely true? Likely not. If you can separate the person from the action it may be easier to see at least some good in that person. Not at all am I saying this is easy to do. When someone has wronged you or someone you love it’s tough to move past it and see any good at all. But it is there if you look long and hard enough.
Take your boss for example, maybe he’s really strict and expects a lot from his employees. He works you hard and taps his watch as you walk past his office 5 minutes late. You may not like him, you think he’s a miserable man and you label him as mean.
Take another man who is a loving father, a caring husband, a son, and a brother. He’s the guy that takes his family camping in the summer, dresses up at Halloween and teaches his kids to do just about anything. What a lovely man.
What if I told you they were the same person?
By separating the person from the action you may be able to move beyond what caused you pain and see this person in a different light. We will see our boss differently and maybe even relate to him a bit more when we are aware of the fact that there are people out there who love him more than anything, there are people who are excited to see him at the end of the day and people who can’t wait to cuddle up on the couch with him.
Give this exercise a try. Think of someone you may not particularly like and identify why you don’t like them. Once you have that picture in your head think about something nice they do, a unique skill they have, or selfless acts they’ve done that have benefited others. The purpose of this exercise is not say what they did was OK. It’s an exercise in seeing that things are never black and white, including people.
Life is various shades of gray.
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Your Past Is Not Who You Are
Secrets of the Perpetually Unhappy
Do You React Or Respond?
Photo courtesy of: [auro]