Responding to the Middle Finger

How do you react when someone flips you the bird?

My initial feeling is, “how dare you!” or “F off buddy”. It really depends on the day, circumstance and my current mood. But what I’ve come to learn is that we never really know how strangers are feeling or what issues they are facing.

I used to think that everyone else was wrong, and I was right. I used to think that everyone should think like me. Everyone should have my morals and values and thus the world would be a better place and all would be right. However, that was a very limiting and immature belief.

Now, my primary reason for giving people the benefit of the doubt, is because I don’t know what they are going through. I don’t know their lives and what experiences they’ve had to endure. Perhaps they are driving slow because their car is broken, or they just had an accident the other day and now are terrified of being on the road. Maybe a slow or “bad” driver just got the nerve to get their license after moving to a new country and it’s scary to be on the road. Or they’re thinking about a big presentation that if it goes badly, they’ll lose their job and won’t be able to support their family.

Life is complex and I don’t kid myself anymore that others have the same beliefs and values that I do, because they haven’t had the same life experiences as me.

The best news about this, is that the world too, is complex with an array of dilemmas we face today, including: inequality, wars, famine, disease, climate change, etc. and each of these problems requires a solution. If everyone thought exactly the same way, we wouldn’t have the diversity of ideas to solve these problems.

So I’m grateful for people thinking differently from me. Ultimately I know that we all want peace, we all want a beautiful and healthy environment, we all want suffering to end, and we all want to be seen and loved. We just go about it in different ways.

No one ever says, “I can’t wait to go on vacation to the beach and swim in plastic!”, yet they still buy bottled water instead of a reusable bottle. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the planet, they just haven’t experienced an internal ah-ha to get them to switch their habits.

To the person who flips you the bird, you may want to pause and offer them a smile, knowing in your heart that they’re really on your side, it just might not look like it from afar.