Tuesday, November 3, 2015

     I cannot tolerate braggarts. People who brag are full of themselves, pushy and arrogant. I put these people in boxes in my head. They stay in there indefinitely. I avoid such individuals, and sometimes I even feel hostile toward them. This probably says more about me than them, but . . . 

     In the past two weeks, I have had a humbling awakening: if I let these braggarts out of their boxes, I find that there are reasons for their behavior that can melt the heart and greatly change my perception. This is not to say that I now like braggarts; I don’t. I have learned, however, that before I stuff these people in my boxes, I need to find out more about them.

      We all have a story. Our stories begin at birth and evolve through the years. Sometimes we live our own stories; other times, our stories are told to us; that is, we are programmed by an abusive or well-meaning overly-protective parent or guardian. Sometimes we are objects of tragic or sad circumstances, and our stories get taken from us. When we know peoples’ stories, we can better understand their behavior. 

     I have been told by more than one “expert” that people who brag are insecure. They have to pump themselves up in your eyes because in their own eyes, they are nothing. Even knowing this, I still have never been able to forgive people for flaunting their wealth, talent or intelligence. But what if I found out that they feel like they are nothing because that’s what they were told from the age when they could first understand. What if their parents abandoned them? What if they were bounced from foster home to orphanage? What if they had physical or emotional handicaps that were not visible to others? Often, our scars are not visible, and shame prevents us from revealing them.

     I have listened to two people give lectures in the past two weeks. Elements of the above prompted me to put them into those boxes in my head. After listening to each of their stories, I was almost reduced to tears. The tragic histories of their lives, the struggles they endured to get where they are today were hard to fathom. These two men who stand tall in our community and bring joy and pleasure to others have earned a right to brag. One had no support from his family from the age of 9, and the other grew up in an environment of discrimination. Both persevered through years of financial hardship and physical pain. Meeting them for the first time, you would never have guessed their history. 

     In my seventh decade, I am still learning how to be more understanding, more tolerant and less judgmental. Our upbringing, our history becomes our filter as we journey through this life. Sometimes the filter is distorted, and we don’t see what is before us. I am grateful that mine has been recently adjusted. From now on, I will ask more questions, listen more carefully and fill the boxes in my mind with compassion.