It Wasn’t ME!

With three kids, I hear these words a lot when something in the house goes wrong. The mysterious ghost who leaves the towels on the floor, leaves the food on the counter for the dogs to get, and forgets to feed the cats is alive and well at my house! We laugh when we think about how kids say this when we know they did it, but what about when we do this as adults?

Over the past weekend I spent the day at my elder daughter’s dance recital. It was an all-day event,  and I started the day very tired. On the way there, with both daughters in the car, I became distracted and almost ran into another car coming out of the parking lot. He luckily swerved to avoid hitting me – but then he turned his car around and chased me, gunning his engine and driving on my bumper. I was scared, to say the least, but most importantly, I found myself thinking “It wasn’t ME that did that….’

Of course it was me. It was a moment of distraction that thankfully ended well and without injury (except to my nerves and to my pride). It also served as a great reminder for me of how easy it is to point the finger at someone else and judge them, not realizing that in many situations we are the culprit and the problem.

Most of us like to think we are above reproach in areas that are important to us. We believe we make the right decisions, behave in the right ways and do right by others. If asked, few people would willingly admit they ever drive distracted or put themselves in jeopardy.

But the truth is that we all make mistakes. We make small mistakes and sometimes we make really, really big mistakes. Why is it so hard for us to allow someone else to make them, then? We might absolve ourselves by giving an excuse (“My daughter was yelling at me, my other one was complaining, the other driver was going too fast, etc.” could have been some I would have used!) but ultimately, who committed the infraction? Me. It didn’t really matter about the why or the how, it mattered that it happened; and it humbled me for the next time I throw a mental dagger at another driver who isn’t paying attention.

Should we all do a better job of being more attentive when we drive? Sure. Did I learn a great lesson about being more careful – especially when I have precious cargo? Sure. But did it also remind me that I do dumb things and need to be more mindful of a judgment I might throw at someone else doing something equally dumb? We can see so clearly when it is the other person’s problem, and yet when we do it we will try and excuse it away.

Now, I haven’t met many people who like to do dumb things and who fare well when sorely criticized. Perhaps it is a filter we carry from childhood, but most of us like to do things “right” and avoid being in trouble. When the car was tailing me, it was hardest because I knew I had done something wrong and was “guilty.” Instead of being angry and indignant, I was actually chagrined about my behavior.

This week, as you go throughout your day, remember two important lessons; one is that there is nothing more powerful you can give throughout your day than your attention. Release yourself from distractions wherever you can, so you can concentrate on what’s important. The other is to remember over and over that you are human, and so is everyone else around you. Find a way to sympathize with someone this week over their bad behavior, and admit a bad behavior you may have engaged in to someone else. The humbling experience can be a healthy one if used appropriately!

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Beverly Flaxington

Author, Understanding Other People

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