One day I was walking behind a young man who was smoking a cigarette. When finished, he flicked it high into the air, I guess aiming for the street. In an odd twist of circumstance, the wind caught the still lit butt, sending it back over his shoulder and into my face, leaving a small burn on my right cheek.
He did not look back to see where his cigarette landed. He did not think about the possible impact of his actions. I understand because I smoked for twenty-two years. There were many times I threw my butts out without thinking about the consequences of my actions. Did I ever burn anyone? Did I start a fire on the roadside? Did someone ever step barefooted on a still lit cigarette of mine? Did a toddler ever pick up one I threw out? Who did pick up my tossed out butts? What kind of negative impact did my cigarette butts have on wildlife and the natural world?
I understand what it is like to behave without thinking about the consequences of my actions. As a smoker I rarely considered the negative impact my cigarettes had on others. I did not stop to think that I was not entitled to force my cigarette smoke on other people, children, or my pets. I also did not stop to consider it was not my right to throw my cigarette butts and trash on a public street with the arrogant expectation someone else is responsible for cleaning up after me.
I am grateful for the day I accepted that I am completely responsible for the behavior I put out. That was the day I began caring how my actions impact me and how they may impact someone else.
The interesting thing is, I am the one who benefits most from caring about my behavior. Other people may never know how remaining aware of my actions benefited them, but it never fails that I feel FANTASTIC about me by choosing to do the responsible thing.
Our ego rationalizes behavior after the fact. Heart seeks to determine the possible consequences before we act. Asking “How will it feel?” is the key which opens the door to our heart. Taking time to put ourselves in another person’s shoes before we act allows us to be aware of how uncomfortable, frustrated, or lonely it feels to be on the receiving end of rude and thoughtless behavior. Caring moves us from irresponsible and self-centered to responsible and unselfish – two qualities of people of admirable character.
Christmas is a time we celebrate the birth of an impeccable man of character who was peaceful, compassionate, loyal, courageous, patient, forgiving, honest, generous, non-violent, kind, inclusive, fair, accepting, and responsible. These are some of the many values the man called Jesus lived. Two thousand years after his death the goal remains for us to adopt these conscious behaviors of love as guidelines for how we live too, because it is people of values who are people to value.
Join the Live Discussion with Regina: