The other night, I witnessed a woman yelling at a man I know, on the street, next to a building I was coming out of. She was standing next to her car; he was a good 20 feet from her; and she was angry. I wonâ€™t go into the details of what she said, but the general theme was how incompetent he was, how people were depending on him and on how he didnâ€™t live up to that expectation. He took it with a smile, said thank you, told her to have a good day, and she drove off.
He happens to be a man that I recently did a project for. In fact, I had handed it to him that day. I have done the same project for him twice a year the same way, with good results. Rarely have I received a thank you, but also never a complaint.Â As I casually walked by him, he stopped me, all red in the face and yelled (yes, yelled) that we needed to have a meeting because he wasnâ€™t happy with what I gave him, that it was too last minute, not organized enough, etc.–and heâ€¦ wasâ€¦ angry.Â As he spoke, his voice got higher and louder and he got more and more agitated.Â My first reaction was to defend myself and make excuses: â€œIâ€™ve had a busy week. You didnâ€™t get the information to me on time. You changed some of the information in the middle of the project. Iâ€™m not a machine,â€ etc. He continued, as if I had said nothing, yelled that the current way of doing this project wasnâ€™t working, said that all the information would be better communicated online than in hard copy, and yelled that if I wasnâ€™t capable of doing it how he wanted, he would find someone else.
During this confrontation, I looked over at my husband and back at this man yelling angrily at me: time just stopped.Â I thought, â€œWhy isnâ€™t my husband eliciting any emotion and saying anything to this guy who is showing so much disrespect?â€ Thatâ€™s when I saw it in my husbandâ€™s eyes. My husband understood that this man was â€œventing.â€Â He was humiliated by being yelled at by someone else in such a public manner, and, instead of responding to the person who made him feel ashamed, he was taking his frustrations out on me. I was still personally insulted, but when I realized what my husband realized, my heart went out to him, so I shut my mouth and let him continue.
I left with the understanding that we would meet and discuss this issue. Since then, Iâ€™ve had a few days to think our conversation over. As I said, at first I was angry and personally insulted. The longer I think about it, though, the more I realize that there is nothing personal involved. Yes, he had a right not to be happy with the project I gave him, but no, he had no right to vent his anger on me.Â It wasnâ€™t fair to say negative things about my work or say them in that way out of anger at something that had nothing to do with me.Â Since I have been able to separate the two, I have been able to come to a positive conclusion.
As I thought about it with the distance of a little time, my heart went out to him. My heart went out to me. His yelling at me brought home my memories of inadequacy. Because I could empathize with his pain, I was able to let go and not take his anger at me personally. Was he wrong to vent at me? Yes! But we are human, and being human allows us to make mistakes. Recognizing the humanity in ourselves and others allows us to understand otherâ€™s mistakes and let go of our own hurt.Â Doing so not only gives others the benefit of our understanding; it also does us the favor of freeing ourselves from the burden of hurt and angry feelings.
I have also been reminded by this experience not to get too attached other peopleâ€™s opinions of what I do. Some people will like my work (or gifts or ways of doing things) and some wonâ€™t. The only thing that I must do is my best.