I have been fortunate in my life to be around many well spoken and thinking people. I haven't always come out agreeing with everything some of my mentors have said or believed...but I have always thought that if someone's actions back up their words...well, that is the basis for personal integrity.
I woke up this morning remembering a "pep talk" from one of my early mentors in life, Ray Clendenan. Ray passed a couple years ago, but his daughter, Connie, continues to be a lifelong friend and their family has spent decades working with troubled teens and orphans through a valuable concept called "Teen Ranch". I have no idea how many thousands of young lives they have positively impacted with a sense of family, direction and guidance where original families or parents were incompetent or unable to provide for their offspring.
Ray was helping promote one of my traveling bands in the late 70s...and he was great for solving complicated problems with simple and solid reasoning...wisdom. Our young band of minstrels were just starting a year long tour and already discovering the conflicts that arise when 8+ people live together on the road for long periods of time. He observed some of these conflicts early in our tour and since I was managing this band of people, most of whom were older than me, he quietly gave me and the band some basic advise and philosophy that has periodically guided me all these decades.
Ray said (paraphrased)...
The world we live in is a beautiful place. It feeds us, inspires us, gives us a constant diet of awe at the power of nature. Yet, as we traverse this world we constantly run into problems. Most of those problems are caused by other people. If it weren't for people in our way, bugging us or contradicting us...our lives would be much easier.
Sometimes its the people closest to us who cause the most trouble or hurt us the most. If we want to succeed in this world...we have to learn how to handle people in our lives. We have to learn how to confront without being aggressive. We need to learn to forgive even when people don't ask for forgiveness. If we don't do those things, people will always be causing us problems and controlling our lives and emotions. We will always be REacting to people instead of controlling our own actions.
Yep, people are a problem...but over time I have found that a soft answer turns away anger in another person. Over time love overcomes hate. Carrying resentment against people that have hurt us just builds walls and fills our lives with negativity. The best way to overcome our problems is to love these people that cause us problems every day. If we love and care about them, they will soon be less problematical. People respond to whatever energy you send their way. If you are critical and resentful, they will tend to be critical and resentful back. If you accept differences as just being the way things are and that we don't need to agree on everything in order to care or get along...these problem people will become less of a problem.
We all are different from each other...but one of our core choices everyday in this world is whether we are going to reject each other, or reach out to each other. The more we reach out, the less we feel alone and the more we realize how much we all have in common. I have found that it is very few times that you reach out to help or affirm someone that they won't respond in like manner. When we start looking at problems as opportunities to grow, reach out and understand our differences...that is when we start overcoming our problems. Our problems are based on our own limitations to reach out and affirm versus being critical and combative. So, make your problems out to be opportunities to embrace and overcome the obstacles. If you do that, people become less of a problem...and more of an asset in your life.
Obviously I am paraphrasing heavily from my own memory and interpretation of Ray's words so long ago...but I have often smiled at the memory of Ray's pep talk regarding "People are a problem"...and some of my greatest satisfactions in life have been when I have succeeded in making a problem into a friend, customer or confidant. The "problem" has usually started with me.