Courtesy is Empowering

Ken and Sam were entering a restaurant. Ken went first just as a customer was leaving. Ken didn’t give way to the exiting customer, but continued ahead through the doorway, forcing the customer to step aside. Sam, however, directly behind Ken, stopped, stepped aside, and motioned to the customer to walk out before Sam entered.

Once inside, Ken said to Sam, “Why did you do that? Don’t you know that by letting that guy out you were basically telling him he was your superior? You backed down.”

Incredulous, Sam replied, “What? Being courteous shows you’re secure in your own skin, that letting someone else be first is not a threat to you. In fact, when you had to nearly push him out of the way you were showing that you couldn’t let a stranger have the upper hand. Sorry, buddy, but that shows insecurity.”

What do you think? Who was showing the better coping skill, Ken or Sam? We believe it was Sam, for the following reasons:

Many people seek a stress-free life with minimal unpleasant emotions. The problem is, that approach makes them the main ingredient in their life recipe, where they see themselves as virtuous and entitled. This approach is selfish and will fail in the long run. When it comes to coping, what you want is not there lying on the ground to be picked up and put in your pocket.

When coping with stress, don’t seek things from life; don’t just wander around looking to pick up solutions to your problems. Rather, participate in life, experience it through actions. Experiencing life allows positive emotions to emerge from your actions. Consider, for example, the case of Ken and Sam, which really boils down to old-fashioned courtesy. Polite actions put needs of another person in your coping equation. When you include others in the picture, you can feel some humility as you show yourself that others are important, and empowerment as you see you can participate with life in ways that will give you confidence. Don’t look for emotions and feelings; allow yourself to experience them by acting in ways that don’t make you the center of attention.

Ken needed to keep himself as the center of his actions, which is an ego-based strategy designed to protect a fragile sense of self. Sam, on the other hand, made the other person the focus; he showed himself that he was confident and secure within himself, and empowered to act with a social conscience.

Think about it. Feeling all stressed out, that your life is spiraling out of control, that you are suffocating? Maybe you should stop cooking with life recipes that make you the main ingredient.

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