Every now and then, I wonder how many of my actions are the direct result of the actions of others. Someone cuts you off on the road. Does that impact the way you drive or do you ignore it and proceed? As a writer, someone insults your work. Does that cause you to respond accordingly or do raise the price of what you’ve done?

Some of this is obvious. We all heard the warning from our parents – if everyone jumped off a certain cliff, does that mean it’s okay or smart for you to do the same? But I would suggest that we need to be cognizant of how we are impacted by the words or deeds or others and make certain that our own actions are consistent with who we are.

Here’s a good example. Some days, a classroom is full of rambunctious kids. I’m confident in saying that it’s not because of me or my teaching methods. Certain kids simply act out more than others and a large percentage of it is copying behavior of classmates.

What is the right response? I can’t yell or single out one or two kids to put them on time out. Responding in anger or frustration just can’t happen, particularly because there are students who  didn’t act poorly and shouldn’t suffer for the behavior of others.

And so, the good teacher remains calm, walks up to the offenders, quietly suggests that they return to their seats, and congratulates the non-participants for their decisions not to get involved in poor behavior. In most cases, the class returns to normal and the offenders are clear that they are rewarded for good decisions, not bad ones.

Retaliation is never acceptable. You took my parking space so I’m going to bust out your windows. In addition to that being a criminal act, it simply doesn’t make sense. My preference is to respond to unkindness with kindness.

Whenever possible, I will smile at a driver who chooses to snarl at me for whatever reason. I’ll do the same to someone who barges ahead of me to get a seat in a restaurant. Surprisingly, the lack of nastiness on my part is gratifying and satisfying – dispensing ugly behavior never feels good. Shalom.

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