Tough to realize what big egos we have | Rich Elfers

Confucius said, “Don’t do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.” That’s a little twist to the old familiar saying, but I am trying to make a point that should become clear as you read along.

Confucius said, “Don’t do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.” That’s a little twist to the old familiar saying, but I am trying to make a point that should become clear as you read along.

I recently attended an Enumclaw City Council meeting. Afterward, I had a talk with my editor and with some city officials. Those conversations came as a shock to me. I haven’t been on the council for more than three years and my conversations with them brought me back to the reality of how much of that world I’m no longer in contact with.

That got me thinking about all of us. We all live in our own worlds and we are absorbed with our own thoughts and issues. It’s a rude awakening and very humbling to listen to someone else’s world and realize how egocentric we all are.

There are lessons we can gain from such reflections.

I had a teacher colleague apologize to me about leaving the tables in our commonly shared classroom in disarray. He had called me the day before to apologize that he had been called out of class for an important meeting and did not have the time to rearrange things. To me it wasn’t a big issue, but to my colleague it was really important.

He told me that when he taught in a middle school years before, a teacher who shared the classroom came into the room, saw some items were out of place and threw a fit. My colleague was deeply affected by the experience and transferred those feelings of guilt to me. He thought I might react in the same way the other teacher did.

All of us have had experiences like my colleague. We all emotionally transfer feelings based upon one historical instance to another situation that has parallels. The problem is that we make decisions about future interactions based upon that painful experience, without thinking about the context of the other person’s actions.

Understanding the perspective of another person is probably one of the toughest things there is to do.

Years ago, I was involved in a hiring interview with my principal as the lead. She rejected one candidate simply because that woman’s voice, looks and mannerisms reminded her of a teacher she had trouble with in her past. She said as much. It didn’t matter that the teacher being interviewed was a different person. What mattered was that there was enough of a parallel to reject that person outright.

Both my colleague’s fears and my principal’s decisions came as a result of previous bad experiences. Unless we reflect and work to see the incident from a more objective perspective we all tend to fall into the same trap. We need to ask ourselves why a person acted the way she did – to see the world through that person’s eyes. Reflecting on others’ actions requires that we give them enough grace and right intentions as we give to ourselves when we do things others react strongly to.

It’s human to project our experiences unto others. We all live in our own worlds and it’s a shock to our systems to listen to another’s story and understand their world through their experience.

Being humble, not jumping to conclusions and giving the offending party the benefit of the doubt is the most effective way to, “Don’t do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.”

Easy to say, hard to do.

 

More in Opinion

Trump supporters see the president doing ‘God’s will on Earth’

Why did Truman recognize Israel so quickly and why do we care about modern Israel, enough to bring the ire of the Muslim world down upon us?

Eyman risking retirement funds on car tab initiative

Will the $500,000 investment be enough to get the initiative on a ballot?

U.S. isn’t the only nation flirting with trade wars

There’s another brewing between Alberta and British Columbia.

Gun rights advocates won the battle, but may lose the war

NRA leaders will need to decide if it’s worth putting resources into a fight in a Left Coast state versus investing in efforts to keep Republicans in control of Congress to prevent ideas like this initiative from becoming federal law.

Trump not accomplishing as much as supporters think

This is in response to Craig Chilton’s letter claiming Trump’s presidency is not a mistake because of all of his “accomplishments,” 81 signed pieces of legislation.

Protecting against the abuse of power

Concern about the evil potential of humans is woven into our Constitution’s DNA.

We need to be able to walk in another’s shoes

Just because my experience is different than someone else’s doesn’t nullify their emotions or experiences.

Prepared in all ways but the one that mattered

We need to change the way we think about rape.

Please help the Sumner Food Bank

We have a need for a walk-in freezer with a capacity of approximately 700 cubic feet.

Watch for deer when driving

Two have been killed in Bonney Lake in the past month.

Teachers seeking pay raise; districts resist

They’re talking 15 percent for all certificated staff and 37 percent for the classified education support professionals they represent.