Do you remember the scene when Forrest meets Jenny in Washington, DC? An incident took place at the meeting room of the Black Panthers. One of the Panthers is busy explaining to Forrest what they stand for, why they are against the war. Forrest is half listening and half watching as Jenny speaks/argues with Wesley, her Berkeley boyfriend.
What happens next is dramatic. Wesley slaps Jenny across the face. (It takes place in slow motion.) As Jenny is falling backwards, Forrest steps forward with rage. Wesley turns and looks at Forrest. Forrest tackles Wesley and slams him into a table. Forrest proceeds to punch Wesley several times before Jenny rushes over to pull Forrest off of Wesley.
Forrest, ever the gracious gentleman apologizes to the group as he and Jenny are being escorted to the door, by saying, “Sorry I had a fight in the middle of your Black Panther party.” It’s humorous because the simple Forrest mistakes the Black Panther movement for an actual party … a party where people get together to have a good time. No one seemed to be having a good time.
Forrest’s simple act of graciousness amidst all of the hatred, violence and angry rhetoric swirling around in the chaotic room is stark by comparison and worthy of further examination.
Have you ever been so mad you wanted to fight? Are you able to calm your emotions and show graciousness even when others behave boorishly?
Here are three simple reminders to consider when you’d rather punch someone’s brains out than be gracious.
1. You’re Dealing with Another Human Being
Wesley was a human being doing what he thought was required to protest the war. Maybe he was so blinded by his own anger that he felt physically expressing his anger against a woman was acceptable, or maybe he thought his passion for his cause somehow justified or excused his brutish actions, or quite possibly he failed to think and just reacted … albeit barbarically.
Was he right in behaving that way? Absolutely Not. Did he deserve the beating Forrest gave him? I didn’t object. Was he simply another human being with flaws, misguided principles and vulgar behaviors? Yes.
Try to continuously remind yourself that any incident that is exasperating or even infuriating is simply an act of a fellow human being.
Compassion helps you maintain graciousness.
2. Two wrongs Don’t Make a Right
This certainly was annoying to me as a youngster when my mother would say it. Yes, I figured, “Hey … my bad behavior is not worse than my friend’s or my brother’s bad behavior so I’m justified.”
In an immature and ungracious world two wrongs does make right.
In the world I choose to live today two wrongs does not make right.
To my mother in heaven I say, “Mom, thanks for holding me to a higher standard. And I’m amazed you didn’t rush & pummel me for my antics just like Forrest rushed and pummeled Wesley.” I now get it!
3. Be gumptionable … 100% Responsible for Your Actions and Interactions
When you start to look at every interaction as one where you can only control yourself, a funny thing starts to happen. Other peoples’ behavior starts to become less annoying. The little quirks that our fellow human beings exhibit start to take on a more humorous and less irksome tone.
Here was a turning point for me back in July 2009: I traveled all day, my flight was late arriving and I finally reached my hotel at 12:30am. The desk clerk checking me in wrote room 652 on my access key. I walked the entire sixth floor looking for room 652 but I couldn’t find the room. When I returned to the lobby, she laughed and said, “No wonder you can’t find it, you’re in room 625.” I gave her a dirty look and mumbled something and proceeded to my room.
Once in my room, unpacked, and freshened up, I realized I wasn’t going to sleep very well. I went back to the lobby and apologized for my behavior. I told her I didn’t feel good about giving the dirty look and mumbling. I acknowledged my lack of graciousness. I took responsibility. I slept like a baby.
When Forrest apologized for “having a fight in the middle of your Black Panther party”, he was teaching us all that being gracious even when events (or others) don’t seem to warrant gracious behavior is the quickest way to move forward with both peace and peace of mind.
Compassion champions graciousness.
Would you rather be gracious for a little peace of mind? Or would you rather feel righteous and angry?
Next Blog Title: Happy Thanksgiving 2010
Next Blog Date: November 24, 2010