Having a job where I rely heavily on tips and the generosity of others, I had a day where it seemed like the love was almost extinct among my customers.  Most of them throughout my eleven hour shift seemed cold-hearted, short tempered, impatient and unappreciative of the effort I, as well as my coworkers, were putting forth considering we were short staffed and overextended on work.  I was getting minimal tips, often less than 10% and sometimes nothing at all.  People seemed generally angry and showed no understanding or empathy for how hard I was trying to please them, correct mistakes and fulfill their requests.  By the end of the shift I felt like I was on the verge of exploding into tears because of how harsh some people had been.  By nature, I value doing my job well and making others happy with my work, and when I get this kind of consistent negative response, it is very hard on me and takes some time to recover.

However, the next day, God blessed me with the flip side of the experience.  It was like the complete opposite of the previous day.  Most of my customers on this day seemed full of grace and appreciation for my work.  Sure, there were a few that were still stingy, but unlike the day before, they were the minority this time.  I received much higher than average tips and by contrast to my last day of work, this time I felt almost like I wanted to cry because of gratitude.  I felt positively overwhelmed by how many gracious people I was encountering, and I needed that.  The more interesting thing to notice about these experiences though, is that without that horrible day full of angry, stingy customers, I might not have been so overwhelmed with gratitude for the loving and gracious customers the next day.

The beauty of negative experiences is that they highlight the positive experiences so they appear so much brighter and feel so much better.  Just as hunger can make food taste so much better than it would if you weren’t hungry.  Light shines infinitely brighter when surrounded by darkness.  If you light a candle in a well lit room, it may be hardly noticeable.  However, lighting a candle in pitch black where no other light is visible, suddenly makes the candle look so bright and beautiful that it can’t not be noticed!  People have a choice regarding how they respond to negative experiences or perceptions.  They can become bitter, vengeful, spiteful and negative themselves and perpetuate the darkness that was thrust upon them.  They can shrink inward, into themselves until their light dwindles and dies, becoming oppressed by the darkness and negativity.  Or, they can view it as an opportunity to be different, to lead by example and let their inner light shine ever more brightly so that it cannot go unnoticed, piercing the darkness and spreading light where it was otherwise not seen!

No one likes going through trouble, dealing with hurtful people, or experiencing anything that is perceived as a negative encounter or feeling.  However, we can control how we perceive and interpret those trials.  It doesn’t feel good at the time, but if we choose to look at the situation and ask ourselves, “am I interpreting this correctly or as it was intended?” “what can I learn from this?” or, “how can I show love to this difficult person?” then we open up the opportunity to use the situation to help us grow and develop in a positive and fruitful way, and quite possibly, to also help the difficult people learn something positive as well.  Negative responses perpetuate negative responses.  Hurt people hurt people.  The only way to change the spread of darkness is to become the light, even if you are the only one choosing to shine.  Only with a response of grace, forgiveness, understanding, humility and love can the effects of malice, anger, pride, closed-mindedness, and bitterness be dissolved and transformed.  By choosing to respond to a negative situation with mature and probably unnatural positive actions, we gain strength over ourselves, over the situation, and develop into better individuals who can have a positive influence on the world around us.

This shows that the situation or other people do not control us and cannot influence us to react the way they would expect.  It is natural to want to repay evil with evil.  Love is the unnatural response, but is far more powerful.  Exercising this strength of will and humility helps develop perseverance, strength and wisdom.  It can help develop skills and learning that could translate into being a great leader, teacher, mentor, role model or friend.  Never let negative experiences or perceptions quench the spark of light within you!  Look at what you can learn from it.  Always find the positive effects in everything.  Any bad experience can be used for good and inspire or motivate good responses or actions to follow.

Be the light!


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2 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. I really like your view on perspective. You have done a great job pointing out a powerful way to encourage growth and learning in every situation. Often times we can let our lack color our experiences. But if we can change how we view things, even a little with each event, we can sometimes end up looking in a completely different direction. We can see things as a lack. A piece of paper when viewed directly from the side is close to non-existent. But turn it sideways and suddenly it fills up a relatively much larger area.

    As you said, even the negative experience, if nothing else, helps us to see how much better the good is. If all you ever eat is lobster a steak, it would get pretty boring after a while. It is difficult to get bored with blessings when we all deal with challenges every day. But those challenges can also trim us and grow us, much like a sculptor removing the excess or a vine dresser pruning a vine. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on…perspective!

    • The idea of perspective is a fairly simple concept, but easy to forget in the heat of the moment. We all need little reminders from time to time to take a step back and try to see how everything can fit together in a positive light.