The other day I told the story (“I Feel Offended“) of Mr. G. He’d gone to visit a newspaper editor who made him wait for an hour, and then came out just to dismiss him with a curt “I’m not predisposed to listen to you.”
“But,” asked reader Trace in the Comments, “how do you take no offense? It is easy to say and much harder to do. I think Mr. G had something more going on that made him able to do so, don’t you?”
He did. He remembered. And that saved him. He’ll tell you…
“I once went to an English hair-cutter in Pretoria (South Africa). He contemptuously refused to cut my hair. I certainly felt hurt, but immediately purchased a pair of clippers and cut my hair before the mirror. I succeeded more or less in cutting the front hair, but I spoiled the back. The friends in the court (Mr. G was an attorney) shook with laughter.
“‘What’s wrong with your hair, Mr. G? Rats have been at it?’
‘No, the white barber would not condescend to touch my black hair,’ said I, ‘ so I preferred to cut it myself, no matter how badly.’
The reply did not surprise the friends. Then Mr. G wrote this:
“The barber was not at fault in having refused to cut my hair. There was every chance of his losing his customers if he should serve black men. We do not allow our barbers (in India) to serve our untouchable brethren. I got the reward of this in South Africa, not once, but many times, and the conviction that it was the punishment for our own sins saved me from becoming angry.” – M.K. Gandhi, An Autobiography P. 213-214.
He made three mental moves to avoid feeling offended and angry:
1) he shifted from his own to the barber’s point of view. That softened the anger
2) he remembered that the very same conduct went on in his own country
3) he viewed his own treatment by this barber as punishment – for the sins his own country’s people were committing against their “untouchables.”
These are mental moves we too can make. They require though, the belief that we are not the center of the universe around whom everyone else should dance. And some practice.
P.S. Want to take some baby steps to react more like Mr. G? Here’s a DIY program I personally recorded, edited and did: Unstick Your Brain. Go ahead and slip some new beliefs into your noodle. Most humans don’t come equipped with them. Try it. Comes with my personal guarantee.