I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes. ― Edna St. Vincent Millay
Last week, I was helping Thenix move back into his condo downtown. He was excited as expected. He had a couple of friends helping him out as well. They were there for the big items – the couch and mattress. When they were moving the couch, there was a lot of shoving, pushing, pulling, pivoting, and cursing.
Getting the couch into the elevator was easier said than done. They got the couch into the elevator half-way, but then were unable to move it further. A couple of women pushing strollers came into the building and were waiting for the other elevator. One of the ladies said to push the other end up. Neither of the men, Thenix or his friend were really listening. But as it happens with insights, both of them decided to try it the other way up. It worked! The couch slid into the elevator like melted butter on toast.
Feeling Hurt When Your Advice Isn’t Heard
The lady who felt unheard was unhappy. She complained to her friend. ‘Didn’t I say that? I said that? Didn’t I say that just now? I said the other end up. Didn’t I just say that?’ I felt bad that none of actually acknowledged her idea, but before I could say anything, our elevator door was closing and I rushed in. One of the people helping us commented on the unsolicited advice. He said, he did hear the lady’s comment, but because it was unasked for, it was unwanted. He said, ‘Unasked for advice made him angry.’
Upon hearing that, Thenix said something really interesting (which shows exactly how tiny his ego is and how open he is to the universe). He said, ‘Was it good advice?’
I was quiet throughout the proceedings above. I felt there were already too many cooks in the kitchen and I was happy being an impartial observer. But I did notice a serge of anger through me as well, when the lady gave us advice and then gloated about being right. Why did I feel angry? Like Thenix said, it was good advice. No matter that we didn’t ask the lady for her advice. Or, no matter that we were all hot, bothered, tired, and hungry. No matter that the couch was heavy and a pain in the ass.
The advice even though unsolicited was great advice – if we had followed it as soon as she had given it, we would have gotten the couch in to the elevator as easy as pie. We wouldn’t have grunted, or cursed. But instead of being grateful for this unsolicited advice, I felt anger.
Ego Comes In The Way Of Karma
I decided to write this incident down in my phone to think about later. Why did this incident make me angry? Also, why did that lady’s comments make me feel like a fool? Why did I bring my ego into such a silly and mundane situation? Why did it matter that she was gloating about an obviously good piece of advice?
The answer to all of the above is EGO. Despite the fact that I wasn’t physically involved in moving the couch into the elevator, and despite the fact that I don’t own the couch, I felt attached to the moment and situation. I felt connected to the situation and therefore, my ego was engaged. This was my situation that I was dealing with – my ego felt territorial and was upset when some random stranger tried to butt in. In addition, the fact that the random stranger was ‘right’, whereas, I was ‘wrong’, made my ego even more hurt.
As soon as my ego felt downtrodden or engaged, it lashes out in one of three emotions; anxiety, regret, or anger. I wasn’t aware much of these reactions earlier in my life. But now that I get older, and ‘wiser’, I document and recognize my feelings more often and more accurately. I know the reason why I am having most feelings.
Lord, I Want To Be Zen
This way, instead of reacting to the anger that bubbled up from inside of me at the lady’s gloating, I stopped myself. I thought about why I felt angry and I analyzed my reaction.
My reaction was ultimately connected to an over bloated ego. Like Thenix, I would like to be Zen about these situations, so that my ego doesn’t react every single time its pride is called into question.
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