A few days ago, a woman pulled up beside us rolled down her window and yelled obscenities at us. We had pulled out in front of her, but didn’t know her intentions because her turn signal was not on. We never meant to do anything wrong. That didn’t matter to her. She was mad at us and was behaving in a way that would have embarrassed her family. Since foul language and obscene gestures are not among our strong points, we smiled at her and she quickly drove off. We didn’t want this to ruin our day.
However, the sight of her lingered. It takes a bit of doing to get that kind of behavior out of your head, especially since there was no offense intended.
The Law of the Garbage Truck
Life is full of these kinds of encounters. It reminds us of the words of David J. Pollay, author of "The Law of the Garbage Truck." He said, “How often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you’re the Terminator, you’re probably set back on your heels. However, the mark of your success is how quickly you can refocus on what’s important in your life.”
He gained insight into this philosophy when he was in a taxi and a car suddenly pulled out of a parking place in front of them, nearly causing a collision before they skidded to a stop. The driver of the car was irate, spewing out bad language and throwing in “a one finger salute” at the innocent cab driver before driving off.
Pollay told how the cab driver’s response taught him a great lesson. The driver simply said, “Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.”
How it works with people you know
Strangers can offend us and be gone. However, when someone we know treats us rudely or offensively it’s something we can’t just drive away from. Thinking of what they may be going through in their personal lives can be helpful. Take it a step further and think of a time when you may have responded inappropriately to someone at work or in your family. What was going on in your life at the time? Were you troubled over an illness, or a marital problem? Did the concerns in your head spill out negatively onto someone else?
It takes some doing to keep personal problems contained and not let them control your reactions to others. When you do this you are not only saving yourself from ruining someone’s day, but you’re saving yourself. To hurt others with rude comments hurts them and you. Understanding how this works can help us have a little more compassion on others who may be dumping their frustrations on us, probably unknowingly.
On the job
When someone at work makes a rude comment to you, keep your cool and respond with politeness. If it’s a continual barrage, it may be time to talk it out and kindly set a boundary. That recently became necessary for a friend of ours. She was often being insulted by her supervisor and left to wonder how long her job would last.
She finally found the courage to talk with her. She discovered the supervisor was going through some very difficult personal challenges. They talked openly. Our friend expressed concern for her supervisor, then kindly stated that she needed to be treated with more respect. Since then there has been an improvement and a greater show of appreciation. Not letting those you know continually ruin your day sometimes takes an honest down-to-earth conversation encompassed in compassion.
Remembering that we are in control of our responses to how others treat us can help us have happier days. Joel Osteen summed it up nicely when he said, “When someone is rude, keep a smile on your face. When you stay on the high road and keep your joy you take away their power.”