I was walking past a car the other day and I saw a vinyl decal of Grumpy Cat, the beloved cat who always looks like he’s scowling. The decal read, “Having a bad day? Good.” It made me chuckle. Later that day, I began thinking about how there are people in the world who seem to be a lot like Grumpy Cat; they delight in others’ misery, or they seem to take great joy in creating it.
If we’re willing to be honest, I’m confident there has been a day, or two, in each of our lives, where we have expressed the sentiments of a grumpy cat. Where we are struggling, internally, and lashing out at, or word-punching others, seems to flow from us a bit too easily. It’s not at all how we want to interact, but yet it seems to almost instinctually sneak out and hurt those around us, while leaving us feeling embarrassed and regretful.
An interesting paradigm that we used in my coaching program, which I hold onto as dear, is: Every act is either an act of love or a cry for love. Initially, this can be hard to accept as we begin to examine both seemingly pure and also hostile moments we’ve personally encountered or learned of throughout history. If you allow yourself to embrace that everyone’s intention, with every action, is loving, it challenges the meanings we have already locked in as true to ourselves about those moments.
A parent who screams at their child – how can that be an act of or a cry for love? A parent yelling is typically to inform their child of what they feel their child should be doing; of what they believe would be best for them. A clean room means a child who understands responsibility. A youth who honors a curfew means they are ideally safer. These are loving intentions, although the choice of delivery is questionable. The delivery is primed by our beliefs and the emotional tools we hold to stay conscious of our actions and reactions, especially in times of stress. Delivery and intention are two separate skill sets.
One thing about embracing this paradigm is that it allows us to hold a space of understanding for the one acting out. If we can find trust and space within to believe that everyone is innately loving, this can dynamically impact how we look on and interact with others. If we trust that a stranger’s intention is loving, think about how much more forgiving you would feel towards an inappropriate fellow driver. We are no longer getting ourselves worked up in the frantic energy of the situation, but rather, we are looking to find the love that is being given or cried out for. It offers us the opportunity of a very powerful mindset shift.
In holding this mindset, it also means we stop internalizing the actions of others as though they mean something personal about us. You’re cut off in traffic, that internal voice screams, “What a jerk! They don’t even care that I’m here. They don’t respect me.” However, what if the person who cut you off was overly stressed and running late, thinking they mustn’t get fired and the baby kept them up too late. They may feel awful having to put themselves and others at risk, but they feel powerless to their life. My point is—we never will actually know, so if we are making another’s actions seem personal towards us, we are not seeking to hold compassion.
This can be especially challenging when we create a scenario that involves a loved one and us, but the truth is, as close as we are to others, they are still on their own journey. We serve them more by focusing on their acts of love and cries for love. If we can maintain this as our focus, we can stay present for them, and offer them our compassion and understanding much more fully.
As you go through your day, I would love for you to take notice of your actions, and begin to recognize where they are coming from inside of you. Which part is acting out? If we work to continuously engage our compassion we are less likely to fall into the role of Grumpy Cat.