“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
Even when faced with extreme injustices, Martin Luther King Jr. led his followers to a place of higher being. This bold action of responding with dignity and discipline is so powerful and counter intuitive to our natural fight or flight response. When you have been wronged, whether at work or at home, you want to make things right. Immediately negative thoughts run through our head, “No, he didn't just do that!” “She’s not going to show me up like that,” “I can’t let him win” or “It’s a matter of principle.” If you do take action and either retaliate, seek revenge or become passive aggressive, then you have just entered the vicious cycle.
There’s a book by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels called, “The Tools,” that references this vicious cycle as the Maze. The authors describe the Maze as the place you’re in when you’re so trapped in hurt and anger that you’re paralyzed to move on. “The Maze doesn't just damage your relationship to other people; it damages your relationship to life itself.” And, the deeper you go, the harder it is to escape. Why is it so hard to escape? Because of a universal expectation around fairness.
“We’re trapped because of a universal human expectation that the world will treat us fairly. This is a cherished, childish assumption – ‘If I’m good, the world will be good to me.’ We should know better—the world violates this assumption every day. Someone cuts you off on the highway, a customer is rude to you. But despite this overwhelming evidence, we cling to our childish views.
As long as you insist that life treat you fairly, when someone wrongs you you’ll demand that the scales of justice be balanced immediately…. It’s only when you feel something bigger better, and more powerful than fairness that you stop waiting for it.”
The book continues to describe the tools to help you get out of the Maze. However, this section alone was so powerful for me and a good reminder about how to remain grounded even when every button is being pushed. I’m reminded of the quote, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”