The day after Christmas, I wrote a blog entry ("The post-Christmas challenge") prompted by the good manners and kind gestures I was seeing all around me.
"(I)s it possible to be civil to each other when we aren't on our best holiday behavior? Can we be more patient with the driver who changes lanes without signaling or the bicyclist who blows through a stop sign? Can we be more forgiving when a sales clerk is less than efficient with the cash register? Or when a restaurant meal is less than perfect?"
I vowed to be tolerant of little things that might annoy me. And what did I do the very next day?
Went into a Starbucks intending to buy a holiday-themed treat for the stylist who was going to cut my hair that afternoon, but left in a huff when the service wasn't to my liking. Walked right out the door without paying, leaving the pastries I ordered at the counter.
A few days later, I read a friend's blog in which she referenced the "My One Word" challenge and asked two questions: What kind of person do you want to be by 2012's end? How would implementing one word change your relationships?
I immediately thought of my shameful behavior. Patience. Yes, patience. That is what I preached but not what I practiced at the coffee shop. I vowed to make things right and went back a couple days after the incident to apologize to the cashier who rang me up. I returned the following week to apologize to his co-worker, the young woman who had bagged the pastries I ordered.
Both were surprised to see me and both tried to downplay my apology. I wouldn't have it. I told each of them I was embarrassed by my behavior, that I had let pettiness get the best of me and promised them it wouldn't happen again -- to them or any other service worker I deal with in the future.
Since then, I've tried to be more self-aware. I've tried to be cognizant of when I'm feeling irritated and stop myself before I say or do something I'll later regret. I like to think I'm pretty easygoing but I also know I can have a short fuse. I don't like losing my temper. It's ugly to see it in other people and I'm certain I'm no different.
I'm not saying that bottling things up is always the right course -- that would be unrealistic. But given my penchant for challenging myself -- in terms of blogging, exercising, work or whatever -- it would be far more meaningful if I challenged myself to have more patience on a daily basis. That would benefit everyone around me, I'm sure, and no doubt would help my self-image and overall well being.
Patience. A great virtue, but an elusive one. So help me, I'm going to try.
Tweet me @georgerede
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