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The Official Winds eNewsletter

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 Copyright © March 2003

Is this Just Someone Else's Problem?

Some Thoughts about the Ripples on the Pond...

~written from the common sense perspective of The Winds of the Soul~

by Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.)

 
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Such is what happens in our lives when we mindlessly behave sending ripples of consequences into the lives around us. 

Have you ever noted how the ripples on the surface of a body of water seem to go and on?  The least little disturbance seems to continue forever.  Toss a pebble into a quiet pond and the repercussions multiply before our eyes.  And once the ripples begin, it's just not possible to stop them from impacting the furthest banks.  Such is what happens in our lives when we mindlessly and insensitively behave sending ripples of consequences into the lives around us.  Last month we examined the Prayer of Jabez from the perspective that we should be of the mindset of "first, do no harm," that we should be sensitive to the fact that our actions can bring pain and harm into other people's lives, often without us even being aware.  Having thought about this more over the last month, I've come to see that many of us are really unaware of what we're doing a lot of the time, and how even little things can suddenly parade unintentionally into other lives with consequences that we don't often think about.  In fact, our ability to impact others is far more powerful than most of us know, simply because most of us turn a blind eye as to the immediate and long term rippling effects of our actions.   

Copyright © 2002 Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.).  All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, including but not limited to all forms of media print, audio, electronic and video reproduction,  without the prior express and specific written content of the author, except in cases of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 

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As you no doubt know, the person on the on-ramp is the one who is supposed to "merge," accelerating to the speed of the traffic already on the highway, and joining the flow without disrupting that speed.

What I'm talking about here are not the major events in our life, but often the smallest and what we think are the least significant.  Yet, these are things which I think gives us all an indication as to how sensitive or insensitive we are to others around us.  Here are a few examples that I've recently come across...

I was in a line of traffic the other day attempting to get on the interstate from an on-ramp with posted speed limit of 55 mph.  The late model car in front of me and others was "of course" only doing 35 mph, refusing to accelerate to merge, and seemed completely oblivious of the danger they were causing for the cars directly behind them and with those already on the interstate.  The road was dry, the sky blue, but the interstate was moderately crowded.  So to try to "merge" at 35 was not safe, putting everybody at risk.  As you can imagine, everybody had to brake, trucks and cars all awkwardly maneuvered to let this idiot get on the road, a person who was in their mid twenties, by the way..., but they come in all age groups.  This "entity" had absolutely no road sense nor awareness of anybody around them, driving blindly and carelessly, thinking that everybody else "owed" them a safe place on the highway.  Although there was no accident on this occasion, there will be one day..., and the driver of this car will likely be none the wiser.  He certainly wasn't this day. 

Now, I have witnessed this happen more times than I would like to recall.  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.  It's a common occurrence for many when interstate "wanna-be's" trying to merge into traffic.  As you no doubt know, the person on the on-ramp is the one who is supposed to "merge," accelerating to the speed of the traffic already on the highway, and joining the flow without disrupting that speed.  But this hardly ever happens as it should.  Many "merging" cars inevitably and precariously slow everybody else down, forcing people into other lanes, slowing up the traffic behind them, and generally assuming a right-of-way which isn't theirs. I've come to realize that this is not a lack of driving skills, but something much more fundamental. This is just one measure of the kind of insensitivity that seems to be prevalent amongst us.  And there are many more examples that we encounter on a daily basis....  To my surprise, these are not isolated events.  

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Because these things happen so frequently and repetitively, I can't help but think that this isn't just because a few don't know how to drive.  Rather, it's an indication of how insensitive and ill-mannered we are becoming. 

Other measures of insensitivity on our public roads abound, and again, is a good measure of the overall selfishness, passive-aggressiveness, and egocentricism that is rampant in our society.  How many times have we been behind a car or truck traveling significantly below the speed limit that refuses to pull over for a second and let others go by?  How many times do others drive with their cell phones glued to their faces, mindless of the problems they're causing behind them?  How many times has a car attempting to turn left, refused to enter the intersection until the last moment?  How many seem to fall asleep or become otherwise involved at the red light, failing to note that the light has since turned green and everybody is waiting on them to proceed?  How many drive with their car stereos and woofers turned up so loud that everybody around them is adversely affected by the aggressive rhythmus of their low-frequency music? 

Because these things happen so frequently and repetitively, I can't help but think that this isn't just because a few don't know how to drive.  Rather, it's an indication of how insensitive and ill-mannered we are becoming.  More importantly, it shows that many of us don't really care about anybody else but ourselves.  And, I don't think these things are happening simply because of the occasional influx of French tourists, which of course, would explain the levels of self-absorption being noted.... but that's another story....

As a further example, I was in a grocery store the other day, and couldn't help but notice the lack of sensitivity in the traffic within the aisles.  Carts were left abandoned in the middle of lanes while their drivers were off on some food safari elsewhere in the store.  Others were dawdling mindlessly without care or concern of oncoming traffic or those trying to get around them from behind.  Some were stopped creating traffic jams while talking to others even though carts were piling up behind them.  It's as if nobody else was in the store.  Such a lack of concern was rampant.  One in particular stopped me cold, and rerouted me and my cart headlong into the Corn Flakes, as she flung her cart in a 360 degree move, "wheelie" and all, that would have made a skate-boarder proud!  Even in Supermarkets you have to drive defensively today! 

You could almost feel these people saying under their selfish breath, "This is my right and I'll do what I like, so make room for ME!"  Never an apology..., or an "excuse me." or "sorry" was heard.  Never an indication that others have rights that were being disregarded because of their self-absorption!  It's common place now for such free-for-alls to take place in any public setting.  You know..., I seriously wondered if these people hadn't just driven in from off the interstate....

Here's another common example....  I've tried making appointments today with people that don't seem to understand the concept of time.  Whether it's with a plumber, heating and air-conditioning folks, lawyers, Doctors..., whoever..., nobody seems to understand the idea that when you make an appointment with someone..., you keep it, or if you have to change it, or find that you are going to be late..., call ahead and politely excuse yourself, being sensitive to the fact that you've just put somebody "out."  Well, in my life, I rarely see that kind of manner expressed any more. 

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They will give you a list of excuses as why they couldn't help it, always couched in the subtle tantrum of "it really isn't their fault"... when in fact it clearly is... "and how dare you make mention of it!"  In moments like these, the lies seem to come out of the woodwork!

People show up late, and not just a little late, but hours late, if they show up at all.  And if you happened to mention or suggest that they've been discourteous, well, count on them never giving an inch, or even offering an apology.  They will give you a list of excuses as why they couldn't help it, always couched in the subtle tantrum of "it really isn't their fault"... when in fact it clearly is... "and how dare you make mention of it!"  In moments like these, the lies seem to come out of the woodwork!  Press this point to long and count on never seeing them again.  Their egos can't take the criticism.  Many people seem to expect that they can make appointments without consequence, and that others are not in the least offended or putout when they don't show up in a timely manner, or call to let you know where they are, like we've got nothing better to do!  Again, flagrant insensitivity stemming from habitual self-centeredness....

I know that we all have to make allowances for each other, and there are legitimate excuses out there as well, but it's getting so that we're better off in expecting the "trains to be on time" than someone to actually do what they've promised, or said, or indicated that they would do.  What's really worse, is that there is no culpability forthcoming from those who do the offending.  Not a word of recognition that they've done anything wrong, or have just messed up the Daytimer of someone else, or have been insensitive to the rights of another, even when that other is a legitimate customer! 

It's now common for people to say they're going to do something but then refuse to follow through, indicating yet again the lack of honor in our society, and an unwillingness to understand that their actions affect others adversely.  Like an airline, when one plane is late, the repercussions can be felt for days, as everyone's schedule is affected thereafter.  When just one of us does something insensitive to another, it begins to cause a series of events that few of us want to understand.  Poor driving habits cause accidents and increased driver frustration.  Drunken drivers, too, begin with only thinking about themselves.  Other forms and instances of poor social habits cause hurt and inconvenience that often perseverate later into still other circumstances far removed form the original "ripple."  Our so-called "little" insensitivities cause needless rippling into the lives of others around us, both friend and stranger alike. 

Most of us, too, are probably of the mind that it's others who are insensitive, not ourselves!  But how wrong we are!  We would be overwhelmed at how often we don't look out for the other guy.... how often we don't look out for others in Supermarket aisles, or on the road, or even when keeping our appointments.  Despite our reluctance to view these things honestly and reasonably, our insensitivities to each other are compounded daily, and have painful affects that we don't really want to face. 

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Being sensitive to one another in as many ways as possible can only improve our relationships with one another, and open our eyes to how we can improve our lives with each other.  I think that when we begin to see that our actions, both little and big, can cause others pain and hurt, we begin to grow up and mature spiritually. 

I know these concerns may seem to be small, if not trivial, inconveniences that plague all of us.  But when we begin to see these indiscretions add up in our lives, they actually begin to threaten our level of trust in one another.  They take their chilling toll in very destructive ways, making us all colder, less trusting, more indifferent, less caring, less helpful to each other, and wanting less involvement.  Our insensitivities work to undermine the good will and generosity still amongst us, making these things seem outdated and embarrassing to practice.  Things like accountability, culpability, and responsibility hold the fabric of our families and society together.  Weakening them at any level, weakens us all.   Our insensitivities so allowed, work to wrongly inculcate these habits into our youth, turning them into breeds of unselfishness that we can only wonder about. No matter how insignificant we think these things are, they have a way of becoming more serious over time.

Moreover, such simple things do mean a lot, and speak to the manner of people we are, the character we hold, the values we think important.  Being sensitive to one another in as many ways as possible can only improve our relationships with one another, and open our eyes to how we can improve our lives with each other.  I think that when we begin to see that our actions, both little and big, can cause others pain and hurt, we begin to grow up and mature spiritually, just like the Old Testament fellow, Jabez.  When we begin to understand that we are not alone in our pond, that our actions cause ripples that we cannot stop, we may become a little more sensitive in how we turn our Supermarket cart around in the aisles of life, and immediately more aware of not wanting to cause others pain! 

Until then, we remain childish and adolescent in our personality, small and mean in our manner, no matter how old our driver's license says we are.  Until we see that others around us have the same rights and privileges as we do, and matter as much as ours..., and if we wish to be honorable this needs to be an essential reality to us as it was to Jabez..., we cannot claim to even remotely understand the idea of Christianity.  Until we wish to care for others as if we have our own personal "customer service policy" guiding us to right the wrongs we did..., despite whether somebody forgives us or not..., we are not yet really prepared to "merge" with others on the highway around us.  In fact, until we mature enough, it's perhaps best if we were to wear big blinking lights on the top of our heads so as to warn others when we're around..., and that they'd better look out after themselves because we're as sure as "hell" not going to!

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Being spiritually mature means so much more than being an adult, or being a few years older than the next person....  It means growing to be responsible and alert to the realities of the ripples we leave in other people's lives, and then wanting to do something proactive about it.  That's a mind-set that needs cultivating. 

  So, in the coming weeks, let's ask ourselves some questions....  Are we ready to see ourselves honestly?  Do we direct our life like others who selfishly and mindlessly drive their cars and carts?  Are we more of the problem than we think?  Take a moment, and look over your shoulder....  Who just caused the ripples in your wake?  And who will be affected by the wake you just left?  How many people have you damaged or inconvenienced because of your "innocent" passing?  How many times have you said in the last week, "I'm sorry," or "excuse me," or "that's entirely my fault, let me make that up to you?"  Are we even aware of the toes we've stepped on lately?  Or, are we of the mindset that "they'll get over it..." believing it's really their concern?

Being spiritually mature means so much more than being an adult, or being a few years older than the next person....  It means growing to be responsible and alert to the realities of the ripples we leave in other people's lives, and then wanting to do something proactive about it.  That's a mind-set that needs cultivating.  After all, if were not at all concerned about the little ripples we cause, chances are we won't be so concerned about the bigger problems we cause either....  Indeed, we won't even know where to look.

Learning to be more sensitive can occur by learning again to adopt the spiritual sensitivities we had when we were children.  It doesn't occur by us attending some seminar or weekend retreat.  There is no quick-fix.  Becoming more sensitive doesn't come from an "off-the-rack" item or procedure.  It only can occur from remembering and restoring the "children we used to be" back into our personalities. Opening up our hearts to these possibilities may take some time, but the rewards are well worth it.  It will add to our countenance, intelligence, and to that honor, as the powers of perception then and thereafter only increase our happiness in life. 

Disregarding the proclivities of the "children we used to be" within us, only makes us like those doing "wheelies" in the aisles of life---brash, mindless, self-absorbed, and cold...., and spiritually immature.  Ironically, until the Christian Church recognizes this, I'm afraid they will never please God or draw close to His Message.  But when reawakening these things lying dormant within us, and adding these skills to our conscious stream, we become mature in the Spirit, and like Jabez and Solomon, wise of heart and gentle of hand.  A better way of being, for sure, and probably a more skilled defensive driver to boot!    

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About the Author:  Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.) is a Clinical Psychologist and Neuroscientist having been educated abroad where he completed his postgraduate studies at King’s College, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and then graduated and received his Doctorate from the University of Oxford, Oxford, England. He has been in private clinical practice and medical research for over 25 years, being active as an author, popular radio and TV personality, public speaker, and biomedical researcher. An expert in a number of fields including Forensic/Criminal Psychology, Child and Family/Relationship Psychology, and Neuropsychology.  He has also served as an expert scientific advisor, product innovator and formulator, and professional consultant to the Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries. He is the author of The Winds of the Soul~Heaven’s First Voice To Us, as well as numerous other scholarly papers and works.

I would love to hear from you regarding your own experiences of the growing insensitivities around us.  Why don’t you take a moment and become part of the discussion. Share with me your perspective, questions, and comments; tell me what you think of all this by emailing me at: DrYoung@WindsoftheSoul.com.


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