I will admit, the waiting room of a doctor’s office tends to be a miserable, hectic place. I sat in one a few weeks ago, keeping to myself and people watching. In an effort to limit cell phone usage, I had made an internal agreement to not use my phone and be present the moment. (Why I chose for that moment to be in a doctor’s office waiting room is a question that will remain unanswered, for I too have no idea why.)
A disgruntled fellow sat down a few seats away from me. He sighed in annoyance: once, twice, three times. I stopped counting and started paying attention. What was going on?
Eventually his significant other sat down next to him, and what occurred following her arrival was a barrage of complaints over everything in our vicinity–from the “incompetent” subjects of the news playing on the TV above, to the choice of plants to decorate the office.
I sat there, listening to the frustrations stumble out of his mouth like jabbing slaps from a tantrum-throwing child; unsophisticated, annoying, but painful to endure, nonetheless. Why get worked up over such petty, petty issues? “Everything in here just looks terrible, it’s so cheap. What were they thinking?!” He sputtered, taking another sip of his coke, slumping further down into his “ugly, cheap” seat.
He was an unhappy human, that was for sure. That day could have unfolded in any which way, but he would have complained his way through every version.
His unhappiness stuck with me long after I left that office, prodded at my heart. I was left with the question: if we’ve already chosen to be unhappy about everything, won’t the likely result be that everything we encounter will be a disappointment? Probably.
When we form ideas around situations, people, life, we often get stuck only viewing them from that preconceived sentiment, and we will decidedly refuse to budge without even acknowledging our bias
To put it in more tangible terms: if we’ve decided that all Arabs are terrorists (regardless if they are Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, Athiest, etc…they are almost always generalized as Muslims), a school boy excited to show off his invention will be arrested and charged with creating a bomb.
If we’ve decided that all Christians are bigoted fools, we will never have ears to hear the thoughtful conversations flowing from the lips of followers of Jesus and see their selfless acts of love occurring across the globe.
On a more personal level: a friend who you’ve deemed untrustworthy and lazy may never be able to prove you wrong. You’ve already decided everything that they do will feed into that narrative. A self-fulfilling prophecy, of sorts.
Or perhaps you’ve decided the “universe” is out to get you, and every difficulty you encounter is just another piece to add to the collection of evidence you are hoarding to prove your victim-hood.
Of course, it’s human nature to draw conclusions about people, situations, etc. based on our past experiences. But I think there are times that can limit us and our ability to fully enjoy life. Like foggy, smudged over glasses that skew our perspective, our little lenses of bias keep us from being proved wrong once in a while.
Allow yourself the chance to be surprised. That’s a joyful experience, isn’t it? Discovering something new, encountering kindness and care in unexpected places. We have more to learn than we think, even from people and situations we’ve previously determined to provide us no benefit.
To be clear, I am no advocate for positive thinking as a way to mend our world. No amount of happy thoughts has healed those sick with depression, suffering from illness, enduring difficulty. Nor am I advocating for complacent acceptance or submission to yucky situations.
I just think we could all be surprised a little more often in our daily encounters. We could be more intentional about looking for reasons to have our assumptions proved wrong. We could be friends with those we think are our enemies, enjoy a place we think is downright awful, discover joy in what we’ve previously avoided.
There were so many things my unhappy friend could have been surprised by at the doctors that afternoon. Air conditioning on a regrettably hot day, a nice cafe to pick up a snack to munch on while waiting, staff that were happy to engage if you struck up conversation.
Have you thought of something you are willing to be proved wrong in? Be adventurous and aim to watch the life unfolding around you with a little more expectation and a little less cynicism.