In this journey to understand the world and understand ourselves, we need to learn about mastery. Not necessarily mastery of a thing, although that is important, but mastery of ourselves.
I’m thinking about this lately as anger and emotion are ratcheted up in the United States, especially as I watch the first presidential debate.
There is nothing wrong with emotions. Emotions are information. However, the task is to make sure we do not let our emotions–our passions–control us.
In order to maintain this control, you need to look at why you may be feeling the way you are, and what you can do about it.
I thought about this at church yesterday, hearing my priest speak about the various people the Lord sends to us every day. Every person, he said, could be an opportunity for you to work God’s will, not just for you, but for other people.
I’ve written before about an obligation–maybe “obligation” is too strong a word and I should say “a strongly encouraged method of being”–to be cheerful, and treat everybody with respect and dignity. Commentor and fellow writer J-Wall Jackson pointed out that Jesus himself was a man of sorrow, and that we are not expressly command commanded to be cheerful, but hear me out, because it’s a great little trick to help you gain some control over your thoughts and your emotions (and also not be a jerk).
Even if you’re having a bad day, by merely putting on a smile, even if you don’t mean it, can actually trick your mind into being happy. Positivity spreads as much as negativity, but the difference is that positivity is a good thing. So if somebody comes to you and you are pleasant to them, regardless of their faith, if any, you might just affect their day in a positive way that they then go forth and do good unto others. My priest was saying to keep this in mind when dealing with the world.
And as a bonus, you will feel better. And there’s no telling what you can do with that positive energy.
How often has somebody else being a jerk ruined your day, which sours your mood, and results and you treating other people negatively and in general having a bad day? It’s an awful chain reaction. And you don’t want to be having this effect on other people, do you?
You don’t want to be “that guy,” the one who’s viewed as a drain on everybody’s mood.
I’ve been that guy before, the downer, the one who can always be counted on to ruin a party or rain on a parade. The guy who thinks he’s being “edgy” or “realistic,” while he’s really just driving everybody away and making them more likely to treat others in a negative manner.
Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. Maybe you have to be “fake” and just pretend that everything is internally all right. But eventually you’ll start to believe it. And you might even keep your friends around, and it’s always easier to deal with tough times when you haven’t driven away all of the trusted people you can talk to.
Don’t think only about the people before you, but about the people they’ll interact with, and so on. Taking this long-view–like taking the long-view of just about anything–will force you to really think about the consequences of your actions and the kind of impact you want to have on the world around you.
It’s all about self-mastery, and if a big part of this includes a permissible amount of positive self-deception, then so be it. We are not rational beings, and if we need to trick ourselves into acting in productive ways, that’s better than being the mopey bore nobody wants to be around.
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