This scene has been going through my mind more and more often. We're bombs with ever-shortening fuses. Have you noticed that? Patience, listening, understanding, civility -- these are lost arts in our fast-paced, instant-gratification, real-time texting and tweetering society.
Society is on edge.
Our responses are disproportionate to the event. As a business owner, I've seen customers go from 0 to 100 on the rage scale in mere seconds. I'm sure you've witnessed the same.
In our e-commerce business, I've been berated because an order shipped too quickly. I was hung up on and lambasted in a 1-star review because a customer's items arrived within the quoted delivery window ... She needed the items sooner but didn't want to pay more for expedited shipping because "Amazon has free 2-day shipping." A customer's order was returned as undeliverable because he entered the wrong shipping address. When I asked him for the correct address to reship the items, he responded, "It's the #%*!&-ing Holiday Inn!" As I've said, the customer is not always right.
Childcare is even worse as issues are compounded because parents are naturally protective of their children. Recently, we had a mom who launched into a verbal rampage, swore at our staff and threatened them before calling the police. Why? Because her son's hair was messy when she picked him up. Needless to say, the police were confused when they arrived and mom brought them up-to-speed on the emergency.
Everything is an emergency.
Everyone is in a hurry to get nowhere. Or, more likely, to get to a Starbucks. How else could we keep the fast pace going? The road is a battlefield. We don't courteously let people onto the highway. We speed up, get as close as possible to the car in front of us, and honk at anyone who dares try to merge.
It's not just driving. We need an app to pre-order our fast food. And curb-side pickup for groceries or, better yet, grocery delivery right to our refrigerators. If you do happen to go into the grocery store and find yourself in a long line, get ready. As soon as a cashier opens another lane, the race is on and it's no holds barred. Push and shove, everyone.
We were in line the other day when a cashier opened another lane and said, "I can take whoever is next." As I asked the gentleman in front of us if he'd like to go, an older woman behind us didn't hesitate to rush over to be first. So, I continued to wait with my four young children. My son just looked at me and said, "Man, that old buzzard's in a hurry." I couldn't help but laugh.
We have no patience though. Everything is on-demand and accessible 24/7. Those time-consuming recaps and intros to your favorite binge-worthy shows? Netflix has an option to skip right to the show.
While we watch (especially if we're forced to watch the intro scene), we can live tweet or multitask on our phones. We can always be getting something done on our phones. Our phones are in holsters (if not permanently affixed to our hands). We're notification junkies, anxiously awaiting our next fix. Every app has push notifications and we love it. We say we hate it, but let's be honest -- every notification makes us feel important. And every notification is urgent. If you don't reply to that tweet now, the opportunity has passed. It's in the dust heap of internet waste within minutes, buried under a mountain of new tweets, all desperately seeking attention and relevance.
If you don't respond to that text within 30 seconds, the sender will probably assume you're mad at them. It's the 21st century cold shoulder.
There's not enough time in the day. So, we spend significant amounts of time reading about and implementing time-saving strategies ...
The reality is, there's plenty of time. We're just wasting much of it, and the result is exhaustion and short tempers because we're losing perspective.
Everything is important because nothing is important.
When I've talked to people about how on-edge everyone seems, they all agree and usually blame technology, stress, millennial "entitlement", or increasing selfishness. I can certainly see those as contributing factors, but I think there's something deeper, something at the root of even those causes.
I think we're stressed, entitled, selfish, and quick to overreact because we're losing ourselves, our sense of purpose and meaning in life, and we're allowing our circumstances to shape who we are instead of allowing who we are to shape our circumstances.
The two go hand-in-hand, I believe. What would society be like if our purpose revolved around who we become instead of what we accomplish? What if our mission was to be the best version of ourselves, to be men and women of character and integrity, and to put the needs of others before our own?
Instead, we define ourselves by "success", measured by money or friend counts or retweets or being first through the checkout line, a success that has a selfish motivation -- our own happiness, contentment, or validation. We focus on ourselves for our own benefit as opposed to bettering ourselves for the sake of others -- patience, kindness, and joy (of others).
How do we change that? What drives you? What gives meaning to your life? What keeps all the ups and downs of life in perspective? Who do you want to be, even in the most challenging times? How do you want to be remembered?
They may forget what you said -- but they will never forget how you made them feel.
~ Carl W. Buehner
Perhaps the biggest challenge is choosing every day to focus on what matters, and I don't think we can do it alone. We're all imperfect, and trying your hardest to be a good person will only leave you exhausted.
For me, I'm most consistent when my life is centered on Jesus. When I surrender my life instead of trying to control it, focus on the life and person of Jesus, focus on eternity, focus on who God wants me to be, and feel the peace that God promises, my life is in perspective, and as a product, I have patience and integrity even in challenging situations. Conversely, when I'm focused on myself or my job or my success, I can be irrational, quick to anger, and inconsiderate.
I hope you find something to keep you grounded and to keep life in perspective. If nothing else, I'm going to put my phone down every once in a while, take a deep breath and be in the moment, and laugh at myself.