Over twenty years ago, I worked for a family-owned company in Mississippi. The owner, my boss, was a proud Cajun transplant from Lafayette, Louisiana. He was the closest thing I had to a father and has since passed away, but I hear his voice, wisdom, and advice almost daily.
He was a hard worker and a great storyteller. I recall a particular tale he told regularly that I have kept with mi for years and shared with others. It’s the story of Mr. Thibodeaux and Mr. Boudreaux.
Mr. Thibodeaux and Mr. Boudreaux, now old, crotchety men, had been lifelong best of friends since their elementary school days. They lived across the field from each other their entire lives. Their wives quilted, their children played, and the families shared many gatherings and memories over the years.
Mr. Thibodeaux borrowed a posthole digger from Mr. Boudreaux to fix part of the fence that joined their property a while back. Boudreaux, of course, graciously obliged as it was customary for the families to share and assist one another. Now, Mr. Boudreaux, ready to plant some trees, needed his posthole digger.
Mid-project, Mr. Boudreaux recalled loaning it to his friend and set out across the field to regain his tool. He became aggravated as he strolled across the wide-open spaces and rough terrain, head bowed down, the sun beating on his neck, sweat dripping from his brow. “I bet he doesn’t even have my posthole digger anymore.” He thought. “He probably lost it or loaned it out to someone else, and that’s why he’s never returned it. “Why did I loan that to him in the first place? He has money; he could have bought his own.” “He’s so forgetful. He probably broke it and is avoiding me.” On and on, the thoughts progressed to the point that the more steps Mr. Boudreaux took, the more irritated and extreme the thoughts ran through his mind. The angrier he got, the harder he walked, the faster his pace, the more tense his stance. Exhausted, frustrated, and exasperated, Mr. Boudreaux finally approached the steps of Mr. Thibodeaux’s porch. Firmly he banged his fist on the edge of the screen door, causing quite a commotion. A confused, unaware Mr. Thibodeaux opened the screen with a smile for his old friend only to be greeted on the other side with a scowl and angry tone, yelling, “I didn’t need that dang posthole digger anyway” Turning away, he stomped off the porch mumbling and grumbling eventually disappearing amidst the field.
As you probably guessed, the story’s moral is that we often carry expectations, fears, and aggravations with us that we inadvertently pour onto others. We allow our thoughts to depict outlooks that may be skewed. We focus on and carry the weight of things that may not be as we perceive.
So, what are you carrying? What has your thought process presented to you in situations that caused you to react without fact, truth, or knowledge?
Clearly we see how our thoughts, expectations, and fears can influence how we interpret and interact with the world around us. Therefore, it would behoove us to be mindful of these tendencies and strive for a more balanced perspective. That time is now. Girl, it’s time to show your shine, not your scowl.
Some recommendations I like to use when approaching situations with greater clarity are:
- Reflect on the validity of your thoughts, beliefs, and biases. Be aware of any preconceived notions or expectations you might carry, and question whether they are based on accurate information or personal assumptions.
- Actively listen to others and consider different perspectives. Engage in open and respectful conversations with people who have diverse opinions and experiences. This can broaden your understanding and challenge any conflicting views you hold.
- Try to put yourself in another’s shoes and consider their emotions, motivations, and experiences. Understand their perspectives. This can help you approach interactions more compassionately and reduce the tendency to project your perspective onto them.
- When negative or skewed thoughts arise, make a conscious effort to challenge them. Ask yourself if there is evidence to support these thoughts or if they are simply based on assumptions, fabrications, or fears. Look for alternative explanations or more balanced interpretations of situations.
- Develop a practice of mindfulness to increase awareness of your thoughts and emotions in the present moment. Being mindful can help you observe your mental processes and clear thinking without judgment.
- Recognize that you cannot control everything. Nor can you change how others think and behave. Focus on what you can control – your own thoughts, attitudes, and responses to situations.
By actively working on our self-awareness, challenging negative thoughts, and embracing empathy, we can cultivate a more balanced and open-minded outlook and reduce the weight of distorted perceptions and expectations in our interactions with others.
I encourage you to travel light, do not carry unnecessities, oh, and return the metaphoric posthole diggers to the Mr. Thibodeaux’s in your life.
© c. michelle bryant griffin
Photo by: focus on fabulous creative photography