Listen to yourself

Sometimes, my own words come back to haunt me.

Don’t ever assume someone else thinks exactly like you do,” I had said assuredly to a friend, my voice full of certainty. “Don’t ever interpret their actions through the lens of how you would react,” I’d added with the air of someone who knew, someone who was imparting great wisdom.

They were words I should have taken to heart. Truths I knew, but chose to ignore. Because not very long after speaking them, I found myself angry at another friend, upset because of the way that friend had treated me, reading between the lines and thinking because he/she hadn’t done something I would have done in his/her place that our friendship meant more to me than it did to my friend. Because my friend hadn’t done what I would do, wasn’t reacting the way I would react, or didn’t seem to understand why I was upset, I was absolutely convinced that I had completely misjudged the depth of our friendship and was once again standing alone in a room full of people feeling hurt and lonely.

And I didn’t have to be. Because the conclusions I had drawn and the hurt I had nurtured was baseless. Instead of looking at the reality of a years-long friendship, I was mired in a tiny moment that had hurt my feelings and left me feeling out of place, ignored, and unimportant—all because I judged my friend’s actions on what they might have meant if I had done them. I decided in a split second that he/she didn’t value the relationship, that our friendship was more important to me than it was my friend, and most of all, that I wasn’t the most important person there to my friend.

Later that night, I watched a woman at that same gathering try various ways to draw everyone’s attention to herself. She shouted; she stage whispered when others were talking; she sat on people’s laps and interrupted.

“It’s not all about you,” I said to myself as I looked at her.

And the words hit me square between the eyes. We were two sides of the same coin.

I had arrived, for whatever reason, wanting to be treated like a valued friend, a very important person. And I hadn’t been—and that rankled my pride and hit me all wrong. So, I employed all my “attention-getting” mechanisms: I scowled and frowned; I shut down and hide beneath a shell of angry silence; I got frustrated by things that weren’t that big of a deal. I had indulged the prideful, sinful “look-at-me” part of myself that I sometimes foolishly believe will never rear its ugly head again.

It’s not all about me. It never had been. I can’t erase those moments that were ruled by my anger, pride, and self-centeredness—but I can choose to admit them, confess them, and move past them, always keeping a look-out for the warning signs they’re creeping back into power.

And the next time I dole out words of wisdom with such authority, I’d do a better job of taking them to heart.

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