I heard a story of a man who was on a flight and his children were completely out of control. They were loud, kicking the seats in front of them and throwing things. The other passengers were understandably upset and began talking about how horrible of a father this man was. Their disdain got louder and louder, but the man was completely oblivious to what was going on until one of the passengers had taken all they were willing to take and confronted the man.
“What kind of father are you? Do you not see that your children are completely out of control and making this flight a living hell for the rest of us? Settle your kids down! What is wrong with you?” The man, shocked back into reality, was completely embarrassed and apologized. “I am so sorry. I’ll settle them down. We are heading home from our dream vacation, but two days ago my wife was pulled under in the ocean and drowned. We are flying home to make arrangements and lay her to rest.”
As the story goes, the passengers changed their anger into compassion and began to help this man with his children.
The point?You never know what someone else is going through Click To Tweet
We don’t know their background, their experiences in life or if they are having a bad week, month or even year.
In our situation, January 20, 2011 was a day that changed Meredith’s life forever. I hope that the “forever” part is not true, but the repercussions of that day have continued to affect her for the last 5 ½ years and unfortunately I don’t see any end in sight. That was the day that Meredith was attacked. We learned that it was not some random event, she was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a planned attack to get us to stop working to get kids out of gangs.
People have heard how that day impacted Meredith, but it has impacted me as well. I am the one who feels an even greater responsibility to protect my wife. I am the one who is always on high alert. I have to make sure that she is safe, not just physically, but emotionally as well. I am the one who has to help bring her down when her P.T.S.D. kicks in; when her blood pressure skyrockets and she can’t breathe, her head begins to pound and she cries uncontrollably. I am the one who has to make her feel safe.
I’ve learned that most people have no idea what P.T.S.D. does to someone or how random things can trigger an attack. I’m sure everyone is unique, but I have learned a few of Meredith’s patterns. It may be an actual confrontation or as simple as the grocery store being rearranged and she can’t find her normal items. She has been triggered by smells, sounds, strangers walking by, a light being turned off when she knows she turned it on or a door unlocked. Heaven forbid I am grabbing a door handle as she is opening it from the other side. Anything that would startle you or cause you to question your safety can send her over the edge.
And it doesn’t end a couple of minutes later when you find out everything is ok and there is no danger. The headache lasts a day or two, she struggles to calm down, has nightmares, and remains emotional and can cry for no reason at all. Two days later she may still be struggling to overcome the stress. And it never helps when someone gets frustrated because she seems irrational and they say “relax, it’s no big deal.” Getting short with her or minimizing her feelings only adds to her struggle.
This is only our story, but others may have their own struggles that we know no nothing about. Maybe it’s a teacher who had a rough day. How about an officer who has seen one to many women beaten by their partners. Maybe it’s a mother who’s exhausted while dealing with a sick child. The point is, we don’t know what other people are going through.
I may not be the oldest and wisest guy in the world but here are a few of pieces of advice.Desire to understand as much as you want to be understood Click To Tweet
- Desire to understand as much as you want to be understood
- Learn to hear as much as you want to be heard
- Pray for people instead of criticizing them
- Ask why their upset instead of being offended
- Work through frustrations instead of pulling away from relationships
- Give the benefit of the doubt instead of doubting their character
- Offer grace instead of judgment
Reality is, I don’t know your struggles and you don’t know mine. Maybe life would be a whole lot easier if we offered others the same understanding we hope to receive.