“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I tried to get the attention of my daughters but they were intently focused on their pre-swim meet warm up. I decided that if I hurried, I could get to my car to retrieve what I’d forgotten before their warm up concluded.
Although I was parked at the back of a mile-long parking lot, I walked quickly and was back to the front the door of the natatorium in less than seven minutes. I was heading through the double doors that led into the pool area when a stern voice stopped me in my tracks.
“Timers, that way!” an older gentleman in an official uniform was barking orders at me. Even his finger, which stiffly pointed to a dark equipment room off to the side, appeared angry. It was as if I was a child being sent to my room for misbehaving. I was speechless … and unmoving.
The man jabbed his finger angrily once more in the direction he wanted me to go. His face had now become a dangerous color of red. I was in complete disbelief. All this over my entry through a door? Seriously?
“I am not a timer,” I said calmly to the man, attempting to model a normal speaking voice. “I am a parent who is trying to get to her children.” I then proceeded to walk through the doors I intended to go in the first place.
But yet again, I was blocked. The man’s entire hand was now in front of me. “THAT WAY!” he screamed pointing back to the dreary equipment room that clearly didn’t look like a pathway to the pool to me.
Upon further inspection, I saw a steady stream of parents and meet officials heading that way. I surmised that the main pool door had been closed to walk-through traffic when I ran out to my car. But how was I to know? There were no signs, no yellow tape, and no caution cones – only this not-so-jolly navigator who wasn’t doing anything to enlighten me.
I began walking in the direction the man desperately wanted me to go, but then I stopped. I turned back around, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Why do you have to be so rude?”
I was not expecting an answer, but I got one.
“I fell off a ladder yesterday,” the man said irritably, his angry tone still alive and well.
I stood there for a moment looking at this man … this man who didn’t want to be there … this man who was in pain … this man who was perhaps fed up with life and feeble bones.
And that is when I realized this man’s anger had nothing to do with me.
“I am sorry to hear that,” I said quietly.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” he said referring to his harshness toward me. He looked down at the floor.
“I hope you get to go home soon and rest,” I offered before walking away.
I made it back to my seat just as my children were coming back from their warm up.
“Where were you, Mama?” my younger daughter asked.
“Well, I had to run out to the car and I met someone on my way back into the pool,” I explained. When we got home and were not surrounded by loud speakers, buzzers, and splashing water, I would tell my daughters about the man who’d fallen off the ladder. We would say a prayer for him.
And we did.
But that man continued to remain in my thoughts. I couldn’t get over the fact that by asking one mere question, he revealed something I don’t get see everyday: the condition of the heart. And getting a glimpse of his heart explained a lot—actually, it explained everything—about his behavior. That man sure didn’t enlighten me about how to get into the pool, but he enlightened me on something that mattered much more.
Three days later my typically cheerful younger daughter came home from school in a foul mood. She was unusually whiney and oppositional about almost everything. Her snack on the way to swim team practice was yucky. Her practice was torturous. She didn’t want to take a bath when we got home. Dinner was picked at with a frown. Her guitar chords even sounded miserable as she half-heartedly strummed. I wondered if she might be getting sick.
We crawled into her bed for nightly reading time. Normally when I pull her covers up around her, she giggles. But there was no laughter that night.
“You okay? You don’t seem like yourself today,” I said with concern.
“Mama, there’s a boy who keeps asking me to take off my glasses. And I kept saying no—until today. Today I took them off,” she paused for several seconds in an effort to keep from crying. “And when I did, he said, ‘yuck.’”
For some reason, the grumpy man and his ladder popped into my head. And I suddenly realized that my child’s painful admission explained a lot – perhaps everything – about her sullen behavior.
My baby fell off a ladder today. I thought to myself. And the ladder of shame and humiliation can be a rough fall. It can make you question things about yourself … it can make you feel suddenly unsure and self-conscious … it can make you want to hide … it can make you want to cry.
All at once, I could see the condition of my child’s heart … and this explained so much.
“I am so very sorry,” I consoled as I pulled her close. “I am sorry you were hurt,” I whispered gently rubbing her back.
After spending a few minutes just holding her I said, “That boy is wrong, you know. He is so very wrong. You are beautiful with or without your glasses. Maybe that boy wishes he had glasses. Or maybe he wants to be your friend but doesn’t know how to go about it. Or maybe someone tells him he is ‘yuck’ and he has pain in his heart.”
My child and I talked through some comebacks she could say if he (or anyone else) asks her to remove her glasses in the future. We talked about getting support from the teacher or guidance counselor if needed. We then read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and laughed at the silly antics of Greg and Rowley.
As I closed my child’s bedroom door, I felt incredibly grateful that my eyes had been opened a little wider on this journey to grasp what really matters in a culture of distraction and disconnection. I decided that when someone reacts toward me in a negative way, I would try to remember there might be more going on than meets than eye. Assessing the situation based solely on the person’s actions may result in failure to see what is most important: the condition of the heart.
My friends, as you go about your week, I encourage you to try The Ladder Perspective. Perhaps you might discover this:
Her ladder is a sick parent. When her father was rushed to the ER, she fell about ten rungs down.
His ladder is a job loss. From the moment he got the news, he fell all the way from the top.
She’s waiting to get the test results back. She’s clinging, barely clinging to her ladder.
His ladder? His loved one is drinking again. It’s that same old ladder of pain and hopelessness that won’t go away.
Her ladder comes in the form of daily school reports. Is there a problem? Should she be getting her child help? She lays awake at night searching for answers, slipping further down her ladder.
His ladder is a secret too heavy to bear one more day, but who can he tell? Does anyone even care?
When you take a moment to consider there could be unseen pain impacting the life standing in front of you, you are able to realize this:
Her anger towards you has nothing to do with you.
His impatience towards you is all about him and the burden he bears.
Her complete and utter avoidance of you is because she is trying to hide from the world, not you personally.
His hostility is a direct reflection of the fear and uncertainty that is gripping his heart.
By using The Ladder Perspective you are able to be more compassionate and less defensive. You are able to be more supportive and less consumed by unfounded assumptions that you did something to cause this reaction. By using compassion in the face of negativity, there is opportunity to shed light on human suffering through the gift of a question.
Are you okay?
Is there something going on?
Could you use someone to talk to?
What’s really bothering you?
When faced with other people’s unpleasant behavior, let us remember to consider the condition of the heart. And instead of kicking them when they are down, we might just be able to help them up … one rung at a time.
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, I welcome your experiences, thoughts, and stories in the comments below. I do feel the need to clarify that this post is not advocating we tolerate personal attacks that are abusive or repeated hostile behavior from others. My intent is to share the worry and pressure that has lifted from my heart as I have stopped taking other people’s negative reactions personally. I continue to be awed by how this change in perspective has allowed love and connection to come into my life at the most unexpected times. In fact, I’d just finished polishing this blog post when I got off a plane the other night. I literally ran to the restroom only to find it was closed for cleaning. I begged the cleaning woman to let me use the restroom. She looked at me with disgust and then slammed the metal barrier against the wall as she let me in. As I left the restroom minutes later, I looked her in the face and said, “I bet you’ve had a long day.” The woman looked at the floor and said, “I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I have a hard week.” I touched her hand and said, “Bless you.” This is how I want to live—to see the heart so I can lessen the hurt. I'd love for you to join me.
*As you do your holiday shopping in the weeks to come, please keep in mind the beautiful hand-lettered prints and handmade bracelets that bear loving Hands Free messages we all need to hear. I will be gifting The Presence Pledge to my children's teachers as well as dear friends to let them know the impact they have had on our lives. Thank you for your support!
I love your heart.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, dear one. What a loving thing to say. You have lifted me right up.
Jen Pera says
I love this, and believe wholeheartedly with what you said. I have a friend that I believe is in great pain, and I have tried to offer compassion, and ask helpful questions, but am met with silence or more unpleasant behavior. How is it possible to offer compassion when compassion is met with a still scared and angry tone? It’s really hard not to take the barbs thrown at you personally.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Jen. Great question. I can relate to this situation as I am sure many readers can too. I think that after we have offered compassion and extended our hand and it is not accepted, it might be time to offer space and then try again if that is what our heart leads us to do after some time has passed. In my experience, I have continued to write cards of loving support during that time so the person knows I am there for him/her without having to actually talk about it.
Rick Callahan says
Sometimes, even though they don’t show it, your words still have a great impact. I am a sub teacher, and I offered words of encouragement and praise to a student for a year and a half before they finally acknowledged them.
Melanie Pickett says
This is a beautiful post. I wrote a post along these lines a couple weeks ago featured on BlogHer. That’s not a shameless plug, by the way. :). I’m saying we share a similar perspective, that being we need to glimpse the heart of others and remember that if they’re exuding some rudeness or hostility it’s usually because of an underlying hurt or circumstance. A little compassion goes a long way. Thank you for this!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Melanie. Feel free to add the link to your post! I’d love to read it. This is definitely a universal issue and it is helpful to see all different perspectives so we can be further enlightened.
That is a beautiful perspective!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment, Stacy!
Christina K. says
I needed this today. Thank you.
Rachel Stafford says
Thanks for letting me know, Christina. That is fuel for my writer’s heart!
Davina W says
I have spent a lifetime feeling other peoples pain without wanting to or trying. at age 34 I have now finally decided to embrace this gift that I have and put it to good use. I will shortly be training as a councellor which will undergo 3 years of intense training and personal therapy. Reading this post has made me feel even more determined to do this and do it to the best I can. I have never met anybody who doesn’t have a story but I have met plenty of people that wouldn’t be able to put their story into words.
Thank you for lifting my spirits up again and taking me another rung up “my ladder” . x
Rachel Stafford says
Oh this gives me goosebumps and tears! I am so happy to know your compassionate heart will be listening and loving and building people up as your profession! I can only imagine the lives you will touch! Please keep me posted. Bless you and your loving heart.
What great insight! If we all could remember this, the world would be a kinder place. Thank you for sharing your story.
Kindness begets kindness. I always try to model it for my twin 9yo boys and it nearly always works. Your tenderness always touches me, Rachel. Over the summer we were staying in a beach condo in South Carolina, the old and stooped man who cleaned the halls and elevators and emptied the trash was cleaning up a broken bottle. “Be careful,” my son Nick told him. He looked up and smiled a genuine grin and thanked my son. I told him how much we appreciated what he did for us. We talked for a few minutes and as we walked away my other son said “Well, he was nice.”
Nick, the boy who had initially told him to be careful said thoughtfully “That’s because we were nice first.”
Yes, we all carry a burden, but our shoulders are not so weary that we can’t find room for a little more. My best to you, Rachel.
I just started to read your blog, and I’m so glad I found it. Your words often speak straight to my heart…this was a great post, thank you.
Very enlightening! In my later years I find that I usually do not take comments personally, but I know someone who always does. I often wondered how we could do the same things and my experience be pleasant and hers nearly end up in a fist fight. I believe the answer is in your story. Thanks.
Nina Deibler says
My daughter had this kind of day yesterday. I had scolded her for digging on my desk and finding (and opening) something I’d hidden there for her. She didn’t cry then, but when I talked to her about it a little while later she couldn’t stop crying. I finally asked her what had happened. No one had sat with her at lunch that day. They all sat with another girl who was celebrating her birthday. My heart ached for her – she has the kindest soul of any human I’ve ever known and she is “friends with everyone”, but is also regularly not included in things like this. Your posts give me SO many more tools to help her cope and learn from the pains of growing up. Your posts also give me the perspective to remember how important being there for her, with her, and truly engaged with her and her brother is in their lives. You are changing lives, Rachel!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Nina. This makes me cry. I feel your daughter’s pain and I feel so thankful you gleaned something from my story that you feel will help you in connecting to your children’s hearts. You have blessed me.
Nina, your post made me tear up! My oldest has a similar personality – friendly to everyone, but not always included. My daughter is very, very shy and I think sometimes she unknowingly excludes herself because of it 🙁 – being by herself instead of getting into the group.
Rachel, I’ve read several of your posts via a FB and they have resonated with me! I will subscribe to you to make sure I read more!
I follow HFM faithfully. Todays post really hit home with me. I recognize myself and others on this ladder. I think most days I’ve lost my grasp on the bottom rung.
Recognizing others heart condition opens many different doors to understanding.
Thank you for sharing your life so openly!
Beautiful thoughts and a wonderful attitude! One of the best posts I read on facebook today . Thank you !
What a beautiful image for giving others the benefit of the doubt! I credit my mom for articulating this perspective early and often when my sister and I would complain about how someone had treated us. She first offered us a compassionate ear, then gently pointed us to consider what lay behind those unkind behaviors. This is beautifully expressed. Your blog is such an encouragement in my parenting (and life!) journey. Bless you!
Such a sweet reminder. People’s words rarely if ever, are about us. I learned many years ago to think with an eternal perspective. The Ladder Perspective enforces that way of thinking for me.
you have such a gift Rachel.. how lucky are we to be able to share in your beautiful insight to the world we all live in. Thank you for your wisdom and loving light.
Wow….I needed this today. Badly. Thank you from the bottom rung of my OWN ladder…..Trying to cope with the behavior of someone close who seems to be at the bottom of theirs as well. I will remember this, from BOTH directions.
When our son was young he was in a community play that involved lots of children, many practices, and, therefore, a certain amount of chaos. Also acting in the play was an older man, who on the best of days had a grim countenance, and often scolded and grumped at the children backstage. They WERE being naughty, some of them, and making noise and not listening for cues, etc., but his demeanor did not make them warm to him, did not bring out the best in them. My son, being a quiet, thoughtful type who always did prefer more order and calm in his life than many kids, could relate to him a bit, I think, and talked to me about how grumpy the man was. I told my son to just keep on behaving properly, and maybe make the extra effort to reach out to the man in small, courteous ways, so he proceeded to utilize opportunities to greet the man with a handshake, smile at him, speak a gentle word. Several practices later, my son reported that the man had made the first friendly overture that day. My sweet boy happily digested the lesson in how kindness and patience can wear down a rough exterior and warm both hearts.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Carla. This is uplifting!!! Please give that special son of yours a big hug from me. I so appreciate his loving heart.
Shannon Rose says
This post had me in tears. It’s been a big couple weeks, and emotions are running high and patience is running low. I am thankful for the reminder to focus my eyes on the heart of my family, not the outward expression.
Alycia Peter says
Thanks for such a great perspective!
This is so true. I am frequently in this position and I’m so thankful for the patience to talk to a woman sitting outside of a person’s hospital room once. She was the daughter of a woman with alzheimers who always mistook her loving daughter for a busy body neighbor. But the beautiful daughter persisted in caring for her mother and I just told her that she is an amazing gift and one day so many people will recognize it.
Missy Robinson says
It’s so important to remember this each day. I can think of grace-filled, “You must be tired,” and questions of “Is there something else going on?” Learning to draw out the heart is a relationship skill that connect us to others and fosters closeness. Thank you for the reminder!
I have been teaching this to my children and grandchildren. When I was about 15 years old I asked God for patience and wisdom and this is how he showed me. By looking with my eyes and heart I viewed others as not being mean and not loving but as hurting and feeling no love. Isn’t it funny how we define love,patience and wisdom but, oh, if we would just see others thru God’s eyes then we would get the true meaning of it all. Thanks so much for this, I pray everyone around the world will be able to read and apply it to their lives.
Vicky Hadick says
I so needed to hear this today..Thank you for sharing…Love it..
Vicky Hadick says
Beautiful Story and I so needed to hear this today.
Kerrie Stubbs says
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Words that definitely need to be reiterated every so often, especially when it comes to our children. Thank you for the reminder!!
I once heard it said this way: hurt people hurt people. Thank you for you soulful thought.
I have been following you for a few months now and this piece moved me to tears today. You really touched my heart. Thank you!
Laura Moss says
What are we all doing here, if not to pick each other back up when one has fallen? Not one of us is so steady as to never fall down. I feel so fortunate that my family, friends, and church are so supportive. Some are missing that community. Especially as the holidays approach, we need eyes that see the ones who struggle under the weight of bearing life alone…of having no one to pick them back up. Even Jesus needed help carrying his cross. We’re not meant to do it alone.
Caroline McGraw says
This is so true, Rachel – it’s all too easy to take people’s anger and grumpiness personally, but usually it has nothing to do with us.
Your story reminds me of a time when I looked toward a stumbling woman on a DC street. I’d looked at her with concern, trying to decide if she needed help, but I think she assumed that I was judging her gait, and she reacted with harsh words.
Later, I realized that I’d done something very similar in the past, and I wrote, “I don’t know anything about her circumstances, but I understand that sometimes, when we’re trying not to take our anger out on those closest to us, we end up taking it out on strangers. Before, I saw that woman as a terror; now, I see her as a sister.”
Thank you, as always, for reminding me of what love looks like. I’ll carry the ladder idea with me into the holiday weeks ahead. xoxo
Oh, I what you wrote today (as always.) 🙂 And I love even more how you spoke to the gentleman and then later the lady at the bathroom. THAT is what it’s about isn’t it? When we first moved to where we live now (last year) I was “warned” about a grumpy man in the neighborhood and told to avoid him/ignore him by some of the neighbors. Every morning I went for a walk and walked by his home and sometimes he was doing yard work. I smiled and waived as I walked by. He glared at me angrily. Every time I walked by I continued to waive and smile and he continued to glare. One morning four months later when I waived he surprised me with a waive back! And a smile! I learned that he had back surgery a few months ago and he has been in physical pain for a long time. Daily, chronic physical pain is enough to make a person a little grumpy.
I’ll share another story with you about my grumpiness. Twenty five years ago someone I love was in the hospital. I was worried, so worried and was beside myself. I was sad and I was angry. I went into a waiting room for family members at the hospital and nobody was there. I wanted to be alone. A lady walked in and I didn’t want her there (as if I owned the place – really?) I gave her a dirty look. Somehow we got to talking. I ended up telling her about my loved one and she comforted me. She was loving, caring and she made me feel better. There is so much to be said for the kindness of strangers. Then she told me her story. Her 10 year old son was in the hospital. He had been hit by a car. The Dr’s didn’t know if her son was going to survive. Even with all that on this kind lady’s mind and heart she took the time to help and comfort a grumpy stranger. I learned a lot from her that day. It turns out her and I worked for the same company in separate buildings. For the record her son healed perfectly. 🙂 She’ll never know how much she helped me and taught me that day.
Michelle Revelle says
I am always so blessed by your words! Thank you for using your voice to share your own struggles. I hear your words of encouragement throughout my week – my children do not know you, but you are a blessing to them too. 😉 May you continue to be encouraged in the work you are doing!
I love the way you write, Rachel. Thank you for always offering a positive perspective on life and for pausing and questioning the state of someone else’s heart. Your post reminded me of an article I read the other day…
Words to live by. Bless you … we can all be a blessing to each other if we look always for the heart. Thank you for sharing this.
I am grateful for this reminder today. In both the rude and the always smiley, there are hidden stories. Some cope by building fences, others cope by painting a pretty picture. I do both (depending on who I’m with) when I’m struggling and have yet to find my way, so it’s easy for me to see both sides.
I love that you asked him that question. It was pointed, but by respecting yourself you opened up yourself to care for him. So often that is the case. Maybe it’s our own experience of pain casted on by others that notifies us of their pain… a little bell alerting us to check in, first by respecting ourselves in that situation and secondly by letting that person know we don’t write them off simply because of one rude moment.
I LOVE your posts, Rachel. I have unsubscribed from so many blogs because of time constraints, but yours are always worth the read.
This is a lovely post. It can be so hard to remember this in the “heat of the moment,” but it is so important to try to gain perspective. Those that are cruel or rude are typically those that need our grace and compassion the most. Thank you for the gentle and touching reminder.
Thank you for this. Yesterday I was talking with a counselor about seeing things from other peoples perspectives ans realizing that many situations are not about me.
For example, when someone cuts you off, they did it and would have no matter what car was there, it was not done to “me”. Maybe they were on their way to the ER, maybe they are rude, maybe they did not see me, or any other number of reasons. It was not me. I did nothing to make it happen and I need to move on and pray for the other person, that they are healed from what ever ladder they fell off of.
I am trying to see the good in every situation but also to realize that many things that happen are not happening to me as a person, I am just the one that is there.
He fell off the ladder and would have said those things to anyone who walked by. You can not take it personally. I hope and pray for the courage to ask someone if they need help, like you did. I pray that I can see the good in people around me and realize that it is about them and not me.
thank you again for your blog and your book!
Rachel Denning says
Very beautiful, thanks for a lovely reminder.
Have you read Anatomy of Peace?
Before I had children I ran a store in an international airport. Every time a customer was rude or short (or sometimes downright mean) to me or a member of my staff I made an effort to smile and treat them with kindness. I understood that travel is stressful and that their attitude toward me was not personal. I usually would see the person soften a bit and sometimes I would even get them to open up a little about what was bothering them.
I have taken that perspective with me and now that I have children it has served me well. My son is in kindergarten and has a physical disability. When he comes home grumpy, sullen, moody, or yelling I know that chances are he had a hard time with something that day at school. A few days ago he was such a grump, he yelled at his sister to stay away from him and was in a terrible mood. Later, we were snuggling in his bed and he told me that he wanted to go across the monkey bars at school like the other kids and it made him really upset to watch them at recess. My heart breaks for him in those moments, but I was able to turn it around. We ended up talking about all of the wonderful things that he CAN do and how easy it his for him to make friends, how he is such a great storyteller and how great he is at math, how he is getting stronger every day and is now walking everywhere without the help of a walker. He went to sleep on a happy note and the next day was better.
My motto is “Mama, it’s not about you!”….I have always believed that if you change your perspective you can change your life.
Thank you so much for what you do….you are touching lives! My husband bought me one of your bracelets for Christmas last year and I wear it every day as a reminder to be kind to those around me.
What a beautiful reminder. Thank you so much for this note. It reached my heart.
Thank you. I tend to get mired down in the negativity of others. Thank you for reminding me to look for answers instead of getting swept away with emotion. Your words always make me happy.
Bruce McDonld says
Thank you for this wonderful insight. I’ll put it into practice as I have this one, which has stayed with me for years: coming up behind a car that was stopped on a freeway on-ramp, I angrily swerved around it and sped up to join the fast-moving flow of traffic. “Idiot!” was the word gathering itself to leap from my lips when my companion said in a worried voice, “Poor thing… she just doesn’t know what to do!”
Heather Stephens says
Thank you so much for this post…I read it earlier today and at bedtime tonight my 5 year old said he needed to hear that I loved him more than his sister, even if I was joking. I told him I couldn’t do that and that I loved both equally. This went on for about 10 min and then he burst into tears and said he had to know that or he would feel so bad and like such a terrible boy. I kept telling him how wonderful he was…then I remembered your post and said “where is this coming from? Did something happen today to make you sad?” He cried and told me how the substitute teacher had called him down and said “shush!” when he had not been talking. She had said it to the whole class, but he said it hurt his feelings so much, b/c he hadn’t been talking. If I hadn’t read this today about underlying meanings, I may have just ended the night with “I’m not telling you I love you more and you will just have to get over it.” I am so thankful, I got to the bottom of what was bothering him and found out the reason for his odd behavior
Thank you for this most insightful post. It is a reminder to give grace to those who wrong us. Your posts always touch a place in my heart that I didn’t know was there. I never miss reading them.
Today at Subway I was grabbing a quick sandwich and witnessing the employee being so rude to her fellow workers. At first I thought, “Wow, this woman must be a joy to work with everyday.” When it was finally my turn to order, she made my sandwich and was trying hard to be pleasant, but you could tell it was really hard for her. While she was ringing me up, I decided to ask if everything was ok, not really knowing what I could do if things were not ok. She told me she had been suffering a terrible migraine for hours. That was enough said. Earlier in the morning I had a horrible headache and had to run around town doing errands. I just want to be done and be home to let my Excedrin kick in. I was glad I had an extra Excedrin to offer her. She gladly took it. I hope it helped, and that she began to feel better. You are right. Just asking a simple question can totally shed some light on the cause of one’s behavior. Definitely something I need to remember.
I have been hungry for another post since your last one. I have been checking everyday and even yesterday I did but didn’t see this.(Think its coz of the difference in time zones). However, am glad you wrote about this. I have in many cases tried to understand why people behave the way they do or why some people just decide to be unbearable. I always withdraw from such people and keep off to avoid conflict. This post has given me an insight to always remember that people have different ladders and not to take them personally. It has also taught me to want to know what my children may be going through when they behave differently instead of getting worked up. Thank you once again, may God bless and strengthen you.
Sarah H says
I love this post! Thank you so much for writing it! It is exactly what I needed to hear, especially at this time of year. I am really bad about taking everything personally (this is something that I am really trying to work on) and internalizing other people’s negative attitudes as something wrong with me. When I was out shopping yesterday and driving through crazy traffic I found myself repeating over and over “I don’t know what ladder they are struggling with”, “I don’t know their ladder…” It’s something I hope that I will continue to repeat to myself for a long time to come. Thank you again!
Rachel Stafford says
Wow! This is so encouraging to me, Sarah! Thank you for coming back to share this. I am grateful to know how this post resonated with you!
This is a good one. Thanks so much for being such a positive blogger in this world.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you for coming here to read and to leave such a nice comment. You made my day today.
Thank you. Words cannot describe the pain I felt last night realizing my own sons fallen “ladder perspective”. As I held him in my arms and said, “I love you … no matter what” and felt his teenage body fall into a broken slump from a rigid board, I paused in the moment. I didn’t say a word, I just held my son as I held my breath and he quietly said, Mom, I need help.” Thank you for your perspective. What could be anger can always be empathy. Thank you for sharing.
Rachel Stafford says
Beautiful. Just beautiful. I feel so much hope after reading your words. Thank you for sharing this. I will be sending positive thoughts and prayers your way.
mamabear, your love was evident to your son, allowing him to let down his guard with you and acknowledge his need for help. Blessings on you both as you work toward finding him the help he needs.
You are blessing to this world. Thank you.
Wow! Very eye opening. Thank you for sharing! I needed to read this today.
I am an ER RN at the only trauma center for 200 miles where I live and we are a public funded county facility. I see more horrible things in one shift at work than most people see in years or lifetimes. Frequently, those that I get the privilege of caring for are very very poor in the bottom 20% of society and most hospitals in our county “treat” them and then “refer” to our facility. In reality, pts are seen, but when it’s determined they can’t pay or their insurance isn’t right or tapped out, then the people are sent to our facility.
Nurses are supposed to have a ratio that we work under, but sometimes we don’t have that luxury…people are sick and dying and need help… They need a listening ear, a warm blanket, food in their stomach, some relief from pain and suffering…. Sometimes people are are in such pain that they don’t see you’re caring for 10-15 people and you wish you could do better… Sometimes they think their not really sick and they yell, throw, hit, kick, spit, etc. It’s a messy world and it’s hard loving everyone in it, but the world becomes a better place one moment and one person at a time just simply by loving/caring for the person right in front of you. Sometimes that’s all I can do- is focus on the present crisis and lovingly be the for the person I’m with at that time.
Rachel Stafford says
Julie – Thank you for the profound difference you are making in the world. What a blessing to read your story. Thank you for sharing it.
My ladder sometimes is being a single father of an 11 year old girl, and while that dynamic has enormous challenges everyday, I would not give it up for anything this world has to offer. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. As my baby gets older she experiences more things out of my view each day and though I wish I could say it is easy for a father and his young daughter to communicate consistently the truth is some days it is not. I am printing this out so that I can share it with my baby tonight and use it to help us both understand that we both have ladders, and through that understanding, maybe our communication can come more from the heart and less of a response/reaction. Thank you!
Rachel Stafford says
Matt, thank you for your moving comment — such hope and such honesty in your message. And to know that you and your daughter are discussing this post to help better connect to each other’s hearts is so meaningful to me. I wish you all the best in your inspiring commitment.
Barbara Lane says
Thank you for a very insightful post. At we enter into the holiday season, I will need to remember what you said here for with the craziness in the stores at this time of year, we will meet rude and angry people. And I will need to remember to take time to ask about their “ladder.”
I try to remind myself of this when people act like crazy drivers around me…perhaps they are rushing to a loved one who is sick or in the hospital or something that would make me ignore others and safety. I also try to remind myself of that and tell my son when people are rude or say hurtful things. “When they say mean things like that, its because they feel badly inside, and it has nothing to do with you.” I like the thought of it being a ladder. Reminded me of the book “how full is your bucket.” I read that to my son’s kindergarten class last year and its helped him to be able to articulate when things fill or empty his bucket.
Your timing always seems magically aligned with my experiences. I read this post and got it backwards…I was thinking of a few people who needed to go easy on me and I got very busy “should”ing them. “Yeah…you should get that I have a complex life and can’t be perfect!” I read the post again to quiet all THAT nonsense and send myself some kindness and read it one last time to get MY slice…my work…my desire to take in people’s pain…because I usually feel that when they are nasty. I react to nasty instead of taking the pain in long enough to let me heart fill with understanding instead of defense.
“To be on the way is to be home.” – Jose Pintauro
Right? Still and always learning.
Thank you for your warmth and humanity.
It gives me a safe place to grow.
Good thing to keep in mind. When I read this, I was totally reminded of the blog post by Busyasamother.com blog post on Sisterhood that I’d read a while ago: http://www.busyasamother.com/blog/sisterhood. We need to support each other!
Glam Granola Geek says
What a beautiful heart you have.
Cassandra C says
Your post has weighed very heavily on my heart. I think a little Divine wisdom is telling me it is because I was once your daughter, being teased in a way that stuck with me for a lifetime. I so joyous that you are her mother! The way you were able to turn the situation around to remove the guilt and shame is something she will forever benefit from!
I now feel more ready to tackle my own kids’ hardships having read this, and I was reminded to look at others in a more understanding way.
At work today the radio played Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”. Have you listened to it with your daughter? It might be a good reminder of how she is beautiful in EVERY single way, and other’s negative response is not her issue or her fault, but it can be her opportunity. Thank you for teaching your girls, and all of us, ways to love more.
Rachel Stafford says
Oh yes! I’d forgotten about that extraordinary song! We will listen to it together tonight!!! What a great idea.
Cassandra, I am so grateful that you shared your own story. I am so sorry you were hurt in your younger years in ways that left permanent scars. I pray that healing continues to take place and that you are able to continue to use your experience to help someone else just like you did for me. Bless you.
Your words were so helpful to me over the Thanksgiving holiday. My father-in-law can be a very difficult man to be around, and my husband is unbelievably tolerant and understanding in the interest of maintaining a relationship with him. After three days with him, just as I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, he approached me in the kitchen and apologized for his gruff words, fueled by a lifelong anxiety that stem from his own unhappy childhood, which included violence and alcoholism. As he explained this, I thought of the ladder. This man has been trying to hold onto that ladder (and falling and getting back up) his whole life. I felt so relieved that I had held my tongue long enough for him to open up to me. I think it will mark an important change in our relationship going forward.
Rachel Stafford says
Wow. This is quite remarkable and inspiring, Kate. Thank you for sharing. It will undoubtedly shed light for someone reading this. Grateful for you.
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