The Behavior Police
We love control, and absolutely loathe feeling helpless. So, when people in this world start doing things that cause us distress, we police them. We judge their behaviors, making sure to underline what they are doing wrong. By pointing out their flaws, we assume that we have returned justice and order to the world. We feel a little safer. The experience of the person being policed could not be more different. They often feel singled out, and shamed. To be clear, we demand that wrongdoers allocate resources to change, while diminishing their resources through our actions. This conclusion only leaves us to wonder, if our efforts to police people only make them feel bad and less able to change, why do we continue to police them?
Understanding Problematic Behaviors
We are lax to admit that most behaviors that upset us come from a person, who has persistent and painful life struggles. Despite this knowledge, we ignore the hardships and focus on the missteps. This, in turn, hurts the person we correct, which, if you did not already know, will make them less likely to change.
Here is what we need to know to make better decisions in terms of responding to actions that negatively affect us. Most people do not struggle to change because they do not want to. They struggle because they lack the resources to do so. It is a simple fact that the more stress you are exposed to the less likely you are to respond to reasonable situations in reasonable ways.
Think of the difference in how you would speak to someone with whom you are having a misunderstanding after a nice breakfast, and how you might respond after your lover of 10 years abandons you. The former experience would give you the resources to respond to this conflict with considerable ease, while the latter would leave you raw and exposed, causing you to likely respond more aggressively than you would like. Most problematic behavior is a combination of poor role models, life stress, and a profound desire to survive. Who can’t relate to that?
Three Quick Ways To Give Up The Behavior Police In Exchange For More Ease
To have more ease, we need to recognize three things. First, most people come by their experience honestly, and are not trying to make our world more difficult through their actions. Making it personal for them will only put them on the defensive. They will feel less, not more, able to confront their problem behaviors. Don’t make it personal. We are all on this crazy journey together.
Second, we are all vulnerable to making mistakes. Resist judging others now to avoid judging yourself later. Making room for this shared connection gives us enough room to step away from this isolated incident, and ground our fears about bad behavior being intentionally directed towards us. Most people who offend you do not know you well enough to have made their bad behavior be about you. See yourself in them, and let the tension go.
Lastly, your hopes and dreams are too important to be sidelined even momentarily to police someone else’s behavior. Do you really want to be distracted from your life’s work to yell at the guy, who cuts you in the grocery line or waits too long to go once the traffic light turns green? As you might have guessed, the people who make mistakes have their own problems, and reminding ourselves that they are theirs to solve will surprisingly give us the ease we seek to solve our own problems.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 270. In The Books.