You Stink...No Wait that's Me
Several years ago, I went on a three-week mission’s trip (humanitarian effort) to Malta, a tiny European nation comprised of three islands in the Mediterranean Sea. For people who are familiar with the Apostle Paul and the Bible, Malta is where Paul was shipwrecked in the 27th and 28th chapters of the book of Acts.
By the second or third day of our trip, I was ready to go home. In all actuality, I wanted to be anywhere but Malta because the country stunk. I don’t mean it “stunk” as in nothing went my way, and I was having an awful time. I mean, it “stunk” as in it smelled like raw sewage.
As we walked around I couldn’t help but see the beauty of the country, but I was amazed that one else noticed the stench. I figured there was a reason the natives didn’t seem to mind the smell: they were used to it. However, I simply couldn’t believe that no one else in our group noticed the rancid odor. Even the most vocal and outspoken people had nothing to say about it. I just thought they were trying to be polite. I thought the smell was unbearable, but I took a lesson from them and simply kept my mouth shut.
We decided to go to McDonald’s for lunch, and I headed to the toilet to wash my hands. (In Malta, the “restroom” refers to the room where you go when you want to rest.) As I washed my hands, I did the mirror check - looking at myself in the mirror and making sure that my hair and make-up were okay. That's when I noticed some white stuff on my right shoulder. I picked it off, and – for reasons I will never understand – I put the stuff up to my nose to take a whiff…turned out the stuff was bird poop.
I had spent the entire day casting disgusted glances at the people around me, thinking ill of them because their country smelled bad when I was the one carrying the horrible stench around.
Relating It to Life...
My experience reminds me of scenarios people encounter every day of their lives. Occasionally, they have to deal with people who are rotten, mean, nasty or just plain awful. Sometimes they find themselves in situations that are completely miserable.
Take the man sitting in a business meeting, trying very hard to attend to the speaker. However, he can barely concentrate because the person behind him keeps making unprofessional comments under her breath. As he glances around the room to see if other people are as irritated as he is, he notices that everyone else is doing their best not to crack up laughing. Apparently, the comments are the funniest things those people have heard all day. Should this man lecture his co-workers on the importance of professionalism? Probably not a good idea.
Then there’s the woman whose team was assigned a major project that makes no sense to her. Since she doesn’t want to be the first critic, she opens the discussion by saying, “What do you guys think?” To her chagrin, the rest of the team is totally pumped about the task. She’s the only one convinced that the assignment is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Should this woman go to the boss and asked to be removed from the project? Not if she wants to advance in her career and be known as a team player.
Both of those individuals need to do a little self-reflecting. Just as I carried the stench around Malta that turned my disposition sour and nearly ruined by experience in a pretty amazing country, maybe the previously mentioned people are their own sources of frustration and irritation.
Charles R. Swindoll, an American clergyman and writer, is credited with saying, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it…We are in charge of our attitudes.” I allowed my negative attitude to get best of me. I was so disgusted I didn’t see something that was inches away from my face.
Regardless of the how horrible the circumstance/situation/individual a person has to face, the best practice is to keep one’s attitude in check. When things seem especially putrid, – before pointing the finger, casting blame, sulking or cracking a gasket – people should look in the mirror to see if they have “bird poop” on their shoulder. If they do, they should remove it (with a paper towel or tissue), wash their hands, and get on with the business of life. If they don’t, they should approach the situation as a character building exercise and grow from there.
Resources on "Attitude":
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