OPINION COLUMNS

How to let go of insults and live life free of resentment

By Joy Carrico | Published Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Tags:

Share this page...

Well, the title may be a bit of an oversell, but I do know a way that really helps me let go of insults and live a life freer of resentments.

It’s summed up in two words: assume goodwill.

Joy Carrico

Joy Carrico

To me, that means choosing to interpret things in a way that puts the other person in the best possible light. In other words, I assume that, whatever they said or did, they had the best intentions. And when I choose to assume that the person meant well, I cut down considerably on feeling emotions I don’t enjoy.

Feeling offended is unpleasant. It’s in the family of feelings with resentment and insecurity, and it feels a lot like its granddaddy, shame, my least favorite of emotions.

Since I don’t like it, I really want to cut down on time spent dwelling with that feeling. One way to do that is to eliminate feeling offended unnecessarily. If I reserve my feelings of being insulted to when I actually am insulted, I cut way down on my grudge-holding-obsessive-revenge-plotting time.

Assuming goodwill helps when there is a lot of room for interpretation, like in text messages. So much of my communication is done via text that there is no shortage of opportunities to misinterpret people’s words, as texts do not convey the tone of the sender. The toneless words of a text or email are highly vulnerable to the mood and sanity of the reader.

Here’s a slightly embarassing illustration from my own life. In my early months of dating The Fella, he was away on a hunting trip. We were texting back and forth and calling occasionally. We didn’t know each other very well yet.

Around noon one day, I called him and left a voicemail, requesting he call me back. He didn’t. The next day he texted, “Hey there, sorry I didn’t return your call yesterday. I kind of unplug when I’m here. Can call you in a little while and explain.”

I felt immediate shame and embarassment. I knew what he really meant was that he was feeling smothered by my constant contact and was wanting to be left alone. I called a friend and tearfully ran my interpretation past her.

Luckily, she wasn’t looking at the situation through the same pair of fear goggles I was wearing. She said, “I think he’s just saying he doesn’t get a good signal. Isn’t he in the woods?”

Oh.

I wasn’t entirely sure she was right, but her rational words reduced my anxiety considerably. When he called, he explained he has poor signal strength where he is and keeps his phone off most of the time, so he didn’t know about my request to call until the next day. A disasterous miscommunication was averted due to the sober (as in not drunk with fear) wisdom of a friend, and The Fella was spared a front row seat to the Crazy Show that day (don’t worry, he’s seen it since).

Assuming goodwill is never my first reaction. I have to go through a series of steps in order to accomplish it.

First, I experience whatever words or actions are ripe with potential insults. I begin to feel emotional turbulence. I then pick up the phone and call someone I trust. The choice of this individual is vital to successfully assuming goodwill. I have developed a network of people who have proven themselves to be reasonable, thoughtful, caring people, generally free from crippling insecurities of their own (or can put them down long enough) that would skew their thinking in a way that is unhelpful.

I then tell this trusted friend my version of events and my interpretation. Next, very important, I listen. I do not try to convince them that I’m right but listen to their feedback without judgment and without interruption (oooh, I know. It’s hard. But I get much more out of what my friends say if I actually let them say it).

I usually hear sense in their words and can at least lessen my unpleasant feelings. Inevitably, I am reminded to assume goodwill, and I can then reshape my take on things. I am then often distracted by something shiny, and all thoughts and feelings about the thing leave my head and I forget about it entirely.

You may ask, “But what if they don’t have goodwill? What if they really are trying to hurt me?” Well, never fear. In the rare instance where my assumption of goodwill turns out to be a false assumption, I can reassess and still have all the time in the world to feel anger, shame, insecurity, fear and resentment.

Or, having had time pass between the event and the feelings, I can often choose to let it go.

It’s quite satisfying to realize that someone was trying to hurt me, and it didn’t work.

Joy Carrico is a graphic artist at the Messenger.

Leave a Reply. Note: As of March 24, 2011, all posted comments will include the users full name.

WCMessenger.com News and Blog Comment Guidelines

You must be logged in to post a comment.