Meet “Bob.” I had the luxury of sitting across from Bob on my flight last month. He made the journey quite memorable.
Bob asked our flight attendant, “Henry,” what to do with his bag since the overhead cabinets were full. Henry said that Bob would have get up and check it at the door. Bob quickly insinuated that Henry wasn’t doing his job. Henry replied that he was not legally permitted to leave the aircraft while passengers were on board. Bob quickly moved into an uncomfortable sarcasm and asked Henry what he was getting paid for and whether or not he felt guilty when he deposited his check.
Shortly after this awkward dialog, a frail Hispanic couple boarded. Neither spoke English, they had misplaced their tickets, and the lady couldn’t walk without support. Henry had to do some seat shuffling in order to accommodate them which delayed our departure by about 15 minutes. Bob noted to Henry that he was in no hurry to leave; he was going home to his wife. The two men began bantering back and forth about marriage. When Bob went to put his bag away, Henry pondered aloud that Bob probably had a little “red light action going on.” When Bob returned, the two continued in conversation. Bob tried to convince Henry how horrible going home was. Henry tried to convince Bob that it wasn’t that bad. Bob finally accusingly asked Henry, “Are you married!?” I think Bob was caught off guard when Henry said yes, because he fumbled before asking, “How long?” Henry said, “Five wonderful years. I can’t wait to get home to her.” Bob quickly retorted, “Enjoy it now, because it’s not going to stay that way for very long.” The conversation died off with Bob commenting further about his horrible wife and warning the surrounding passengers about the horrors of marriage.
I’ve been pondering this scene for almost a month now and have concluded 1) I hope I never become that wife and 2) bitterness is an infection that quickly spreads if left untreated. I’ve also been asking myself why is it that we feel the need to minimize the joy and livelihood in those around us? This particular topic (marriage) is very sensitive. Marriage is absolutely difficult. I have so far to come and so much to learn in being Jesse’s wife. As fun and as rewarding as marriage is, it’s also one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. The last thing I want is for someone to suck the energy and passion out of me by telling me that all my efforts are in vain; no matter how hard I try, the outcome is inevitable.
In a much broader sense, I must confess that I frequently act in a similar manner. It’s wrong, rude, and arrogant. You know what I’m talking about. When I’m having a bad day, I want everyone else to have a bad day. If your day isn’t already bad, I’ll figure out how to make it terrible so we can be miserable together. When I am broke, I want everyone else to be broke. You should feel guilty for spending money like that. When I choose a specific diet/way of eating, by golly, you’d better change your ways and realize that mine are right. When I’m passionate about something, you should jump on board too. On the flip side, when I’m enjoying myself, everyone needs to know. Instagram time! Praise me for my awesome life, please. In any case, it’s my job to make sure your life, your feelings, and your thoughts mirror mine.
How ridiculous is this? This attitude quickly causes bitterness and envy. We become consumed with what others have and wish to rob and minimize their happiness. We want them to suffer as we’re suffering. They don’t have a right to happiness if we don’t. They should feel our pain and carry our burdens.
There isn’t a soul in the world without a skeleton in their closet or a conflict in their life. All of us make mistakes and experience difficult circumstances. Rather than forcing our negativity onto everyone around us, what if we lost our self-righteous and prideful attitude? What if the conversation I had heard on the plane was something along the lines of, “I have a screwed up marriage. I don’t love my wife and we have no relationship. I don’t even want to go home to see her. But you know what, I miss the days when we were in love. Maybe someday my marriage will be better than ever, but sadly, it’s not right now. I am glad you and your wife still have love, and let me tell you where I went wrong so you don’t make the same mistake as me. I don’t anyone else in the world to experience what I’m feeling now.”
Let’s stop navel gazing. Instead, let’s do what we can to leave those around us more encouraged than when we found them.
****it’s been awhile since I’ve written, so please excuse the lack of fluidity in this post. I’m a bit out of practice.