In a tragic incident, a distraught young woman called a police hotline dozens of times in the same evening saying she was in distress and was contemplating taking her own life. In the end, the officers at the station became impatient and one of them yelled at her, “Kill yourself already and leave us in peace!” The officers around him snickered, and the flustered girl on the other end of the line fell silent. She never called again. Two weeks later, she did as the officer had suggested and killed herself.
The officer was horrified when he learned of the girl’s suicide. “I don’t know what came over me,” he said. “I myself have daughters! I feel terrible; I was tired, under pressure from other calls, and I simply lost my patience.”
We all have our limits, but these limits change depending on the importance of the person we are dealing with. If it is a boss we are afraid of, we will tolerate a great deal. If it is our sick child crying in pain, we will not lose our patience and say, “Kill yourself already and leave me in peace!” On the contrary, the more the child cries, the more we will cry, too.
In other words, we behave according to our own emotional involvement or interest. We have a lot of patience for people who matter to us, and little to no patience for people who are not important to us. As our ego continues to grow, the little patience we still have diminishes even further. On the current course, we are headed for a complete social dissolution.
The only way to change this abysmal fate is to change how we feel about each other. The reason we have patience with a sick child or an annoying boss is that we feel connected to them because they are important to us for a positive reason or a negative one.
We may not know it but in truth, we are connected to everyone. If we knew how every ounce of negativity we emit into the world comes back to us with vengeance, we would count to ten, twenty, or a hundred before we dared to speak rudely to others. Indeed, we are all parts of a whole, an organism whose parts have been blinded to their connectedness.
We know that it is bad for us to live in bad neighborhoods, but somehow, we do not associate our bad behavior with the bad neighborhood we live in. If we were not bad to one another, we would not be living in bad neighborhoods, bad cities, or countries, or a bad world.
The bottom line is that by recognizing our interdependence, we will eventually come to care for one another. When we care for one another, not only will we have patience for people in distress, there will be no distressed people because our care for one another will prevent such feelings from arising in the first place.
Caring for each other is not a burden, as we think of it today. It is our only shield from adversity.