Living in a busy, populated area can give us lots of opportunities to get annoyed by our fellow man. Driving in heavy traffic is a gold-mine of these opportunities, and if that doesn’t do it, surely trying to shop at Wegmans, Costco, Walmart, or the local mall will have you bumping up against humanity in ways that you might not appreciate. But getting annoyed is good! It gives you a chance to work on yourself. You can change those feelings of annoyance or anger and become a more tolerant and even joyful person. You’ll feel a lot better, you’ll improve your karma, and your magnanimous-ness will spread around wherever you go and seep into everyone around you. They won’t even know what hit them!
Here’s what I do: Say I’m driving on the Beltway and someone cuts me off. Immediately I bristle with a flash of annoyance. But I catch it right away, and before that even becomes a full-fledged emotion, I cut myself off and say something like “That’s OK. Bless you. Have a great day.” It is absolutely amazing how quickly that changes my energy. Within a couple of seconds I go from the verge of anger to a calm, happy person just trying to get where I’m going like everyone else. Try it! And the more you do it, the better you get. You might not even have that initial flash of anger and will simply take it as an opportunity to send out some goodwill.
Now this is a practice. It doesn’t always come easy, but it’s never too late to change the energy around a situation. Let’s say someone cut me off and I let loose with a stream of angry expletives. It might feel good at first — a good release, but then that anger can stick to me. I might continue to grumble about it and be even more easily annoyed by the other drivers. I am now in a grumpy frame of mind where everyone seems to be in my way and I am swimming upstream all alone against all of these obstacles. Maybe an hour or two has passed and I just now remember that I can change this. Even though the incident is long gone, I can at any time forgive that person, say I’m sorry, and let it go. If I have a hard time letting it go, I could even pray or ask the Universe to take the anger from me. And voila — it will go. Try it if you don’t believe me. When you first start doing this, the anger or annoyance or grumpiness might come back, and you’ll have to let it go again. Don’t carry these heavy weights around with you. It doesn’t make you feel any better, and it doesn’t endear you to anyone else either.
Getting easily annoyed or being grumpy is a habit, and habits can be changed. You don’t have to change into a deliriously happy person who goes around giving flowers to strangers, but you can at least develop the habit of being OK with things. That’s actually something that I say a lot in my classes and at home. “Practice being OK with it.” If you can do this, I guarantee you will be a happier person. And as a side-effect you will develop more tolerance and open-mindedness, and it will be easier for you to let people be themselves. So many of us seem to be offended when people are different from us, and that can lead to being mildly intolerant of family members or all the way to the kind of dangerous extremism that we are seeing in the news.
When you think about it, why are we getting so worked up about small things any way? Someone is fumbling around with their wallet and taking a long time to pay in the grocery line? Someone is asking a lot of questions about the menu at the deli? Someone’s cart is blocking the aisle while they peruse the many toothpaste options? Are they purposely trying to aggravate us? Of course not. They’re just trying to get through the day. Have we ever done things to annoy others? Of course we have. We are just trying to get through our day too. Let’s keep it in mind that we are all here together and it’s a lot more rewarding to be kind and compassionate. It just takes practice.