Man shrugging while wife is upsetIn an effort to restore and reclaim our sanity, a lot of us are realizing that other people’s anger and negativity has absolutely nothing to do with us.

You’ve probably seen graphics and quotes going around on social media that say stuff like

If someone has a problem with you, remember, it’s their issue. Don’t give up any of your energy to negativity. You are worth so much more than that.

It’s true, and great advice. Sort of.

If I get upset with you and something you did or said, that anger or irritation is my own.

It’s based on my beliefs about how I want others to behave toward me, and it’s about frustration when they don’t. It’s also based on the ways others have hurt me before.

How I react or not is also my issue.

I might get upset at the injustice of it all: Why are you talking to me like that? Or Why didn’t you give me that raise I deserve? Or Why are you asking me for so much when I’ve already given you what you asked for and then some?

We all do what we do and react the way we react for our own reasons.

But let’s not get carried away.

We don’t live in a vacuum, and if we all think exactly like that all the time—with no qualifications—then we’re essentially absolved of all responsibility for our actions.

If we think, whenever someone gets upset with us about something we’ve said or done (or not done), that it’s their problem, then we have no reason to treat people with respect, listen to them when they’re talking, keep our promises, give to others in ways that they can understand, or apologize when we’ve done something hurtful or wrong to them.

At the extreme end, we wouldn’t even have civilization or society if we didn’t take some responsibility for the “problem” that other people have with us.

If your husband is upset with you, his anger or disappointment is all about him and how he reacts to things. Of course. And the things that hurt him now go back to things that have hurt him in the past, things he’s sensitive about.

But if your husband has a problem with you, and if that’s his issue and his alone—nothing to do with you—does that mean you should just shrug to avoid negativity?

If your wife or anyone—friend, parent, child, coworker—has a problem with you, in a sense that’s their problem. Sure.

But what, exactly, is your part in things?

What did you say or do that was so difficult or hurtful to the other person that he or she is having “a problem” with you?

If you did, in fact, do or say something that’s just intolerable for that other person, isn’t that your problem?

And aren’t you at least partly responsible for triggering the reaction?

What happens if you don’t take some responsibility? What happens if you don’t care about the person who is hurting and don’t apologize for insensitivity, rude behavior, callousness, carelessness, or doing something that the other person has asked you to not do in the past?

It’s true that when we have “a problem” with other people, it really is our problem.

That’s especially true if our “problem” involves unreasonable expectations, if we haven’t asked that person for anything, and if nothing should be expected, in the case of a stranger, for example.

But if we’re creating a situation in which other people experience a “problem” with us, then the real problem just might be ours. And blame-shifting, ignoring the problem, and refusing to work toward resolving it creates yet another problem.

We sure don’t need to step into a situation and add our own “negativity” to a pot that’s already boiling over with it. And we don’t have to take on someone else’s anger or outrage. We don’t have to scream back or yell or argue or anything else the other person might be doing.

We don’t have to get hurt and upset and lash back in return because someone else is hurt and upset with us. Or turn our backs.

Maybe we could care.

And taking positive steps toward understanding the problem, resolving it, and finding ways to prevent it from happening in the future—rather than shrugging and walking away from something that feels too difficult or negative for us to handle—is something we have to do.

If we want the person who has a problem with us to stick around.

If we don’t want to spend our energy on negativity.

Because we’re worth more than that.

Comments are always welcome.


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