TRYING HARD TO BEING OURSELVES

Just when I finished my last draft on the theme of revealing deep feelings in the classroom I came across an article in the New York Times titled “‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice.” Adam Grant, a professor of course, seems to imply we pay a big price by being truthful with people.

I assumed he was referring to academia venues but oh no, he declares that all beings need not be themselves. He contends “Deceit makes our world go round. Without lies, marriages would crumble, workers would be fired, egos would be shattered, governments would collapse.”

The instructor may be right. Often after having run deep with strangers in my travels I would ask if they might reveal what we shared with their loved ones or close friends. Most admitted they would never do so. They weren’t inappropriate truths but, if they were to disclose those sentiments, they might be rejected by a loved one and it would devastate them. What if we have the emotional resources to break through such deceitfulness with strangers and not have to pay a therapist?

Here I go again about the legendary cranial organ known as the Insula. It is lodged in our mid-brain area in our heads. The emotions consist of our anger, rage and compassion, along with other urges and they are jammed together. It calls for some emotional risk to deal with such truth with outsiders when we are angry or threatened.

How soon can we break away from rage and immediately express some compassion? Let’s try the ire that erupts with road rage when a motorist gives us his or her middle finger that’s not to be found in the motor vehicle hand book. Drivers can explode in those moments. Well, some do and I happen to be one of them. Is there any innate empathy we can bring forth to get out of that rage-to-rage mode when those urges are crammed together in an instant?

I don’t necessarily recommend this approach on the roadways but it worked for me. While serving as a district superintendent for six months in southern California I had a 25-minute commute to my office. My routine called for getting on Interstate-5 at 6:30 am with motorists going 90 mile-an-hour with six packed lanes.

I grew up on freeways in Los Angeles so I thought I could do whatever I wanted to do on that California race course by choosing to drive 80 mph. A few motorists honked at me and two or three gave me the middle digit hand code once a week. I would often smile and wave at them vigorously like I knew them. My hunch is they might assume I was a coworker at their firm and it will ruin their entire day. Their contorted expressions made me happy. That’s how petty I can be.

One morning when a motorist greeted me with his hand signal I decided to follow him. I figured he had to be getting off rather soon and he did exit suddenly with me right behind. He stopped and entered a Starbuck’s store. I stood behind him in a long line and asked cordially where he was from.

“Indiana,” he replied.

“Did you grow up there?”

We talked for ten minutes. I have discovered that when I have asked about one’s background they can be a bit more amiable. He began to talk about his work and so did I. We had a nice exchange. I left thinking he was a nice guy and by meeting him up close I was able to avoid being angry for half-an-hour hating him.

“We know too much and feel too little. At least, we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs.”
Bertrand Russel, Authority and the Individual, 1949

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