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Being Less Horrible to Others

Ellen Page, in her coming out speech, nailed it when she said, “…this world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to each other”.

This reminded me of a game I had long forgotten. A few years ago, I was sitting on a bench in Laguna Beach, watching people meandering by. I had been struggling with accepting that I had to share the world with people who I (self-righteously) frankly couldn’t stand. As I painfully rued this reality, an epiphany came to me in the form of a challenge.

I looked away from the ocean and caught the eye of the first person I saw. An older gentleman in frumpy clothes and a clearly painful gait. The following question immediately came to mind.

“What is beautiful about this person?” 

In all honesty, it took more than a few seconds. I had to hunt for something that I could love and appreciate about this stranger. “I love his willingness to walk with his family even though he is struggling to do so.” As my gaze lingered a bit longer, I saw his interaction with his family and sensed that they truly adored this man. My appreciation for him shot up a few more points. He had an adorable laugh. A courageous, unselfish spirit. I sensed all that in 15 seconds.

So I looked at the next person and the one after that. For each person who passed by, as quickly as I could do so, I silently identified what i found beautiful, striking or impressive about that person.

And then she came by. I won’t describe her, there is no need. Every part of her seemed to be in physical, emotional and mental chaos. She looked frozen, numb, angry. I sensed she lived her life in constant defense-mode.

But this challenge doesn’t have a “pass” option. The point is to find something beautiful in every single person.

With this woman, I found it in her courage. I appreciate that it clearly took courage for her to face the world, to go out and subject herself to the judgemental eyes of other people. But on that day, I wasn’t one of those people.

I smiled at her as she went by; hopefully in a compassionate way that showed that I acknowledged her and accepted her. And out of the corner of her eye, I think she saw me. The flap of a butterfly wing can change the weather in the world. Sometimes I wonder if a smile from a stranger can have the butterfly effect on their soul. For her sake, I hope it does.

How would her life be different if everywhere she went, people were less horrible to her? It would be healing to her – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

But the real question is this: How would MY life be different if I were less horrible to everyone else? We all have our preferred method of “horrible”. Are we judgmental, cold, manipulative, gossipy, catty, taunting, passive-aggressive, emotionally abusive, insensitive, selfish, inconsiderate, prejudiced, downright rude, narrow-minded, self-righteous, condescending… need I go on?

Instead of trying to stop doing all those things, START doing something new. It’s the easiest way to make a massive change in your life. When you start a new practice, you will find the old tendencies falling away.

Each time we find something beautiful in another, the butterfly wings are creating magical transformations – both in how we connect with one another and in healing our own shadows.


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