An example from my own life last night: I stopped at a traffic light in downtown Asheville wanting to make a right turn. The person in the left turn lane pulled up past the white line and I couldn’t see around them. I got upset at their discourtesy.
So, I asked the dangerous question: why does that upset me? But I decided to ask it with the intention of finding the fault within myself and not in somebody else. So, my first thought was I try to be courteous to people and I like to see that returned. I think the world would be a much better place if we would all be a bit more thoughtful in our actions. Even little things like pulling up too far so that somebody can’t see around your truck is thoughtlessness; a small example albeit, but it is still thoughtless and makes the world a slightly less pleasant place for somebody else.
But I wasn’t satisfied with that answer. I could justify myself quite well. I mean, I was practically painting myself to be a saint. But that’s not what I want to do. So I thought, why couldn’t I just wait for the light to turn green? Why did I have to turn right on a red light?
What it eventually came down to is this: I’m impatient and don’t want people to get in my way or deny me my rights (such as turning right on a red light). If I rid myself of my impatience, then little things like that won’t get me mad. I won’t lose my inner peace over something that is quite insignificant.
All too often we justify our attitudes and behavior. And many times we have good reasons to be upset. He was a jerk, she didn’t meet my needs, they were discourteous, etc.
But what if we begin trying to find the fault within ourselves?
What if every time we are upset, we stop to think, “Why does that bother me?”
It is the way to inner peace.
But it isn’t easy. Today’s society tells us to claim our rights, to look after number one, to think critically of other people’s actions. Due to the internet, people are becoming “professional” critics with hundreds or thousands of followers. Our very own nature leads us to pass blame. We did it even when we were children. It’s instinctive. But it is a destructive instinct that robs us of our peace.
So, next time you are upset, stop and ask yourself why. And don’t settle for the answer you receive until you can find the fault within yourself. Many of the great Orthodox fathers and mothers taught that in order to know God we must ultimately know ourselves.
(Disclaimer: There are some situations where it is not your fault, i.e. if you are being abused or manipulated –physically or emotionally. Some situations need to be left for your own safety or the safety of loved ones such as children.)