Don’t get angry; get creatively generous

| August 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Frustration.

Irritation.

Anger.

If you’re human, you’ve had those emotions.

While terrorism, crime, violence and greed around the globe and close to home can worry and trouble us, many of the incidents that spike our blood pressures are piddling things.

The driver of the car in front of you sits through the red light, then, as the light turns to green, puts on his left-turn signal, and you’re stuck waiting behind him.

You rearrange a busy day to attend a meeting only to have the meeting canceled at the last minute.

When you get home, the replacement part the guy at the home remodeling store gave you turns out to be the wrong part.

All the scenarios above might be brushed off as “First World” problems, small beer compared to the daily effort to simply survive that so many in the Third World face.

Yet, it is in the First World that we’ve been graced to live, and it is here that we are called to follow the example of Jesus and the teachings of the Church.

We may not personally be able to solve Third World issues — although we can certainly be part of working toward solutions — but we can take a different approach to the way we respond to the frustrating, irritating, angering incidents in our own lives.

Think differently

Put this phrase — “creative generosity” — on a Post-it Note, then tape it to the fridge or stick it somewhere you’ll see it frequently.

Like your dashboard, maybe.

It’s a reminder to change your perspective, to see things from someone else’s eyes, to question instead of to judge.

And then to use your creative ability to think generously.

It works like this.

  • “I wonder if that driver who now is turning left in front of me is lost. I’ll bet he’s from out of town.”
  • “I hope there’s nothing wrong that caused the boss to reschedule our meeting. Whatever it is, it must have been important.
  • “Maybe the guy who sold me the wrong part thought this was the right one. It’s not that far back to the store.”

Taking the tack of creative generosity doesn’t just apply to life’s minor inconveniences or annoyances.

A humble priest once showed a creative and generous heart when, upon hearing that someone had embezzled from a Church organization, his very first response was, “The poor woman. I wonder what led her to do that.”

Before you judge . . .

A test to try when things — and people — appear to go wrong is this: Do I have enough information to be judgmental? What might I not know?

That’s where creative generosity comes into play.

Try to imagine several possible extenuating circumstances that would explain what is frustrating, irritating and angering you. What would be a reasonable explanation — or even a good excuse?

Two benefits come to mind for applying the creative generosity approach to life’s irritations.

The first is that it could help bring down your level of stress and your blood pressure. The second is that it’s free! Being creatively generous doesn’t cost a thing. Instead, it pays off in that you’ll have less frustration in your life, fewer irritations and you’re likely to avoid getting angry so much.

But wait — there’s more.

If you start today, you’ll have a jump-start on the Dec. 8 opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has called for.

Zyskowski is former editor and associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit. Reach him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

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Category: Commentary