When we face unexpected challenges, we find out who we are.
When I was in my 20s, my fiancé died in a plane crash a few days before marriage. Not long after that, my son died of an undiagnosed, inoperable heart condition. Before these two events, when I called my dad to wish him, “Happy Father’s Day,” I learned my healthy father had died from an unexpected heart attack.
As you might expect, these triple tragedies left me reeling.
The information above is true, but not the next part of this story, which is about forgiveness, and how we need to dish it out, with an extra ladle of understanding.
Imagine that I’m your coworker or employee and you’ve come into my work area and asked me for some information you need. I respond, “I’ll get it to you.” That’s not good enough for you, so you press me. You raise your voice and say, “I need it now!”
I’m doing my level best to hold it together, but my nerves are frayed. I’ve had enough, and I take it out on you. I shriek, “Look, witch, get out of my office!” Hallway passersby hear me and wonder what you’ve done to elicit that reaction. Because they like me and realize that language isn’t characteristic of me, they look sideways at you all day. Blaming you for my reaction.
I realize I need to apologize to you and do so that next day. You say, “It’s fine.” As you might suspect, it’s never fine, not after I screamed at you and embarrassed you in front of all those others.
Despite my triple tragedy, I didn’t shriek or cuss at those I worked with or for. I was also lucky enough that those I worked with knew my story.
But what if they hadn’t?
Would they have cut me slack? Been understanding?
Here’s my point: Many individuals we work with are hanging on their fingernails. They’re helping their kids all day long with schoolwork and then working as hard as they can on their “real” jobs so they don’t lose them. They’re trying to stay engaged, but have had their pay or hours cut, and have seen their coworkers laid off, and wonder if they need to pull their own resumes together. They’re worried about finances. About illnesses. Their kids argue with them.
They don’t have time to do what they need to do.
We need to cut each other slack. To understand. To forgive. Because we don’t know the full story.
(c) 2023 Lynne Curry
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