Yesterday, my not-quite-2-year-old and I went to the post office to check my P.O. Box. As we were sorting the mail, a woman walked in 20 minutes after closing time, saw they were closed and was very upset. I’ll save all of the details, but picture language not appropriate to say in front of a repeating-everything-toddler and expressing extreme displeasure to the United States Postal Service and its employees.
In the moment, I judged the woman. Why is she mad at the post office? It’s her fault for expecting them to be open after closing time. She should do better at being “slow to anger”. She really shouldn’t use that language in front of kids.
After she left and as we walked back to the car, I reflected a bit more about the incident. All of the above is still true, but I can’t recall how many times I was upset and angry, perhaps to a sinful degree, for things that were “my own fault”.
While in college, a friend and I booked plane tickets for the wrong weekend. We were discussing plans based on the “weekend after the retreat”. The retreat date had moved and we didn’t take that into account. We called American back within 24 hours, expecting the $100 change fee (ugh), but not expecting that ticket prices doubled overnight. Yes, $100 change fee plus the fare differential. I wasn’t slow to anger in that moment and I’m surprised I wasn’t given an enhanced security screening at the airport. (We changed our plans to fit the tickets, we didn’t break the bank fixing the mistake).
I had every right to be upset—at myself—for not paying attention to the calendar, for not double-checking plans, for not catching the mistake sooner. I didn’t have the right and should not have been angry at American Airlines for not breaking their rules to account for my mistaken. I maintain airline change fees are frustrating and serve only to draw revenue, but I can’t get mad at them for enforcing their own published policy.
I don’t know what was going on with the lady yesterday. Maybe she was having a hell of a day. Maybe she had to get something postmarked by yesterday or face drastic repercussions. Maybe she had a well-formed plan that fell to pieces. Or maybe she just didn’t plan her day well and has to spend more time handling postal matters than she thinks she should have to. Or maybe she’s just a person who gets angry at anyone else when anything doesn’t go her way. No idea.
In the end, I venture that most of us have moments where we’re upset, either at ourselves or a situation, and we lash out at whomever seems to us at that moment to be responsible. We have to be ever mindful to resist that temptation for our own good and those around of us, but we need to remember compassion when others hit their breaking point.