Aleteia

You don’t have to accept other people’s anger and bitterness

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Sometimes people try to unload their negativity on you -- but you don't have to accept it.

There was once a very dedicated and demanding professor, also known by his students to be a fair and understanding man. At the end of class that summer day, one of his students came up to him and said, “Professor, the best thing about getting to the end of this course is that I won’t have to listen to any more of your stupidities, and I’ll be able to stop looking at that annoying face of yours.”

The student was standing defiantly, wearing an arrogant expression, clearly waiting for the professor to take offense and lose his temper.

The professor looked at the student for a moment, and, with total calm, asked him, “When someone offers you something you don’t want, do you accept it?”

“Of course not,” the young man answered, still contemptuous, but disconcerted at the same time by the professor’s unexpected warmth.

“Good,” the professor continued. “When someone tries to offend me or says something unpleasant to me, they’re offering something—in this case, anger and rancor—that I can decide not to accept.”

“I don’t understand what you mean,” the student said, still confused.

“It’s simple,” the professor replied. “You are offering me anger and contempt. If I get offended or lose my temper, I will be accepting your gift; and I, my friend, truly prefer to give myself the gift of my own tranquility.”

“Young man,” the professor concluded in an amiable tone, “your anger will pass, but don’t try to unload it on me, because I’m not interested. I can’t control what you carry in your heart, but I can control what I carry in mine.”

How often we lose our internal peace because of what people say or do to us! Yes, we become perturbed, and sometimes we get entangled in arguments that can even turn friends into enemies.

How wise are these words of the professor in the story above: “I prefer to give myself the gift of my own tranquility. Your anger will pass, but don’t try to unload it on me, because I’m not interested. I can’t control what you carry in your heart; but I can control what I carry in mine.”

Story adapted from José Carlos Bermejo (Cuentos con salud, published by Sal Terrae, 2012, p. 119-120) and reprinted in the May 21, 2017 Sunday letter of Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona.

This article was originally published in the Spanish Edition of Aleteia.

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