I tend to have strong opinions.
I’m not confrontational, so this doesn’t usually lead to conflict, but occasionally it makes me judge harshly. However, having a child who tests all of my parenting methods, and constantly feeling judged on how I parent the said child, has made me check my attitudes.
I’ve been working hard on being more gracious, and the following reminders have helped me find the best in others:
We all have different backgrounds.
When I became a foster parent I realized that foster care is often part of a cycle. The parent grew up in foster care and therefore has never learned to parent correctly. It’s hard to break that cycle. I’m in no way saying to excuse abusive behavior. It’s just that once you learn someone’s background it can be easier to have empathy. Foster care is an extreme example, but it rings true for all of us. We all have different backgrounds, and therefore have different thoughts and make different choices.
We all have different circumstances and experiences.
Recently I was in tremendous pain for an extended period of time. I realized there are people in this world who deal with chronic pain on a regular basis. I’m thankful that I can now empathize to a certain degree. Someone was grumpy with you today? Perhaps they are in pain and can barely function. Or perhaps it’s something else – loss, stress in relationships, struggles in their career, etc. As I gain more life experience, I gain more empathy, because I realize that everyone is going through something. It costs me nothing to be gracious towards them.
We all have different personalities and thought processes.
Someone with a different opinion than you doesn’t necessarily have the opposite, WRONG viewpoint. They may just think about whatever the issue is in a COMPLETELY different way than you would ever consider. I think about conversations I’ve had lately about those who think in pictures compared to those who think in words or numbers. Or those who have an inner monologue compared to those who don’t. There is such a HUGE range of personalities and thinking patterns. Look at the extensive amount of personality quizzes, of which very few fall squarely into one category.
It’s really pretty cool how unique we all are. Let’s not ruin it by writing off those who think differently than us.
We can be gracious even when we’re sure we’re right.
I am in no way saying you should give up your convictions. I refuse to be wishy-washy in my beliefs. However, I DO believe I can be gracious even when I’m sure I’m right. Practicing this might look different based on the topic and audience. If I’m disagreeing with a close friend, our relationship is strong enough to lovingly talk through issues we disagree on. If I think someone is in danger, I may kindly share what I’ve learned in case that person is unaware of the potential danger.
In most cases, with issues that aren’t serious, I can just be quiet and let someone have a belief that’s different than mine. I can assume that they have a different background, circumstances, and personality, and can be content that we don’t have to agree.
We all make mistakes.
I got into a car accident a few years ago when a man in a truck ran a red light and crashed into my minivan. Fortunately we were all fine.
I was upset about the guy running the red light. I was also stunned that almost every person I told responded like, “He was probably texting and driving!” Certainly, that’s possible, but I’m not sure it’s helpful to assume the worst about this stranger. Have I driven perfectly since I got my license? Have I ever accidentally cut someone off or run a stop sign? We should all be driving carefully, as a mistake can cause fatal accidents.
We also need to realize that we all make mistakes…in driving, in parenting, in relationships, in our work. We’re all imperfect people and should remember that when others disappoint us.
Based on these thoughts, I came up with a silly little game. When something upsetting happens, I think of a possible scenario. Someone cuts me off in traffic? Maybe their toddler was sick all night and now they’re traveling to the doctor with no sleep. The screaming child in the store? (Okay, this would never bother me, but I know it’s an irritation for some.) Maybe that’s a foster parent with a child who has just been torn from their home with no belongings.
I don’t wish these situations to be true, and they’re probably fairly dramatic. But imagining a tough circumstance reminds me that everyone has a life outside of the few minutes we see them.
Therefore, I choose to be gracious.
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