Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Dangers of People; a surfers analogy

When out surfing on a crowded day, the greatest risk to injury is not the sharp reef, the strong currents, the big waves, or even the sharks; the greatest risk to  injury comes from other people. You can be a very skilled surfer, taking all the right precautions to ensure a safe surf session, but there's always the risk of running into another surfer. There are  rules and etiquette to be followed out in the water, but if those  rules are not followed by everyone, the danger factor rises even higher.
I experienced this firsthand on a beautiful, sunny, and crowded day out at Ehukais in 1999. It was one of those days where the surf was pumping, and everyone and their mom was out in the water looking for a good ride. After about an hour of fun in the water, I dropped in on  a glassy, smooth, overhead, left-hand wave, only to find that halfway through, someone else was dropping in on top of me. This surfer was not following the very simple surfing etiquette of : "Don't drop in on someone elses wave." Because of his poor choice, I had the top of my foot sliced open by his fin, and the skin of  my left shin completely shaved off. It took over a month for me to recover from that injury. I had to miss work, hobble around in crutches, and be miserable that I was missing all the good surf. It was awful!

I woke up this morning thinking about this incident (yes, it's 4am and I am writing on my blog) because it relates so well to life in general. As we go about our lives learning, growing, and trying hard to follow all the etiquette and social rules of society; taking careful precaution to be kind, and loving, and honest with our fellow man, there's always the risk of running into other people;  People who get offended easily, who get rubbed the wrong way, who find reasons to complain about us, who simply don't like us, or who break all the social rules and etiquette by gossiping or belittling us behind our backs. And no matter how much we try to avoid these  types of situations, people are all around us:  Other people can be a huge risk to our emotional, spiritual, and even physical injury.
And  I'm not excusing myself from this spectrum, either. I've also been on the opposite side of the fence, where I was the surfer who ran over another surfer. Luckily I didn't inflict bodily harm on him, just a nasty, dinged up surfboard! I got chewed out pretty bad for that, and felt sick about it for days. I apologized to my victim profusely, for my bad wave judgement, and gave the poor guy money to fix his board.
So it's true for me, too: I am a risk factor to other people, just as others are a risk to me. As hard as I try to avoid these situations in life, they always come up. I try my hardest to follow the example of my Savior Jesus Christ; to love others, to forgive others, and to bless my enemies, but I often fall short. I constantly look to Him as my example, and try hard to treat others with love, compassion, and understanding. It's a lifelong process that will continue as long as other people are here on earth with me. :)

This past week I found out, once again, and without realizing it was happening, that I have deeply offended someone. (Someone who will probably never read this blog, so this isn't a public apology or defense by any means.) This someone is not only upset with me, but is angry and not open to talking about the issues at hand. I couldn't help but think this morning, "How could I have prevented this from happening? What precautions should I have taken to ensure my safety? How come I am trying my hardest to do the right thing, but still falling short?" And also, "Why me?"
I mean, I don't like conflict and try to avoid it as much as possible. I don't like to argue or debate, or be right all the time. I like to think of myself as being kind, and understanding, and compassionate, but sometimes  it's just not enough. As long as there are other people, there will always be a risk of injury.
Needless to say, I feel injured right now. I feel like I have done everything in my power to be the right person at the right time, in the right place, but still I find that someone doesn't like me. It's hard, and my feelings are hurt, but I refuse to let it get me down.
In fact, here's a few things that I've found have helped me in these types of situations:

  •  Be the first to apologize. It doesn't matter if you are right and they are wrong, or if they are right and you are wrong, or if it's a big, jumbled mess of emotional, confusing chaos! When I humbly apologize to my enemies, I feel peace, and I feel closure. Apologizing doesn't make us weak, it actually strengthens our character and spirit, and helps us feel stronger. After I sincerely apologized to this person, I felt my heart soften and my compassion grow for them. Even if they don't respond, or get angrier, apologizing is the best thing to do.
  • Don't harbor negative feelings or hold grudges. This is easier said that done, but it's something I strive for. When I let the negative feelings go, and try to focus on the good aspects of a person, I feel happier and more confident in my own life. When I try to look at other people as people, with hopes, and dreams, and strengths and weaknesses like me, I can understand them better and see them as God does. Harboring negative feelings only makes me feel worse, so it's important to let those go.
  • Get back out in the water. Just because one person inflicts injury on me, doesn't mean I can't go out and enjoy life. Sometimes when I find out someone hates me, I feel like the whole world hates me. This is so not true, and only does more damage in thinking this way. When I've been hurt or injured, I have to remind myself to get back out there and find joy again. There are plenty of  more waves to catch and friends to love, waiting for us. God helps me to love those who hurt me, and helps me find ways to heal my hurt heart and feel happy again.
  • Move forward. If the person isn't willing to resolve the issues or communicate, move on. Don't keep bringing it up, or trying to resolve it. Simply move forward and life will move right along with you. Some things never get resolved, but they are good learning experiences, and challenges that have made us stronger and better.
Yes, there is a great risk of being injured is by other people, but God has given us the solution:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Matthew 5:43-48

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