Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Greatest of These . . .

patient . . . kind . . . not rude . . . not irritable . . . those are some of the qualities of love about which i try to remind myself each day.  a few days ago, i forgot all of those.  i had gone to a store to return something for my wife, and i ran into difficulties getting the correct amount credited back to my credit card.  the item had been purchased in another store that was a part of this large chain, and the original purchase had been made in another state that has a different sales tax rate.  when the clerk rang up the credit, there was a discrepancy of a few cents, and i explained that it would be impossible for me to pay my credit card bill when the remaining balance on the account was less than a dollar.  my bank wouldn't allow me to issue a check for such a small amount, and the credit card company wouldn't accept a payment in pennies.

the clerk didn't know how to adjust the amount so that i would get my full refund and had to call for a manager to come assist her.  other customers appeared at her station, and i suggested that she help them while we waited for the manager to come.  after she had taken care of all the other customers and considerable time had passed, no other employee had shown up to help with my problem, and the clerk left her station to look for assistance.  more time passed.  my wife was waiting for me outside, thinking that my errand would take only a few minutes.

i grew impatient.  finally, i went to another counter and asked the clerk there to page a manager to the station where i had been waiting.  i returned, but no one came.  i went back to the next counter and requested another page, explaining that i had been waiting now for quite some time and needed to get on with other errands.  still, no one came.  i went to a clerk at one of the check-out stations and asked how i could get a manager over to resolve my problem.  she said that she had heard several pages for a manager to come help me, and that was all that could be done.

in exasperation, i returned to my spot and waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more.  finally, three managers and the original clerk returned at about the same time my wife came into the store, having feared i had run into some problem in returning the item she had purchased.  by this time, i wasn't patient, i wasn't kind, i was irritable, i was rude, and the fact that not one of the three managers seemed to think that i was owed an apology or that the situation in which i found myself was anything out of the ordinary made me even angrier.

the matter was ultimately resolved after several more minutes of the three managers punching many buttons on the cash register, and i received my full credit plus a few cents more.  (now i have a surplus balance on my credit card!).  i left the store frustrated and mad at the world.  i was mad at the incompetence of the store management, though at least i kept my cool with regard to the clerk who had originally waited on me.  she was courteous throughout the whole ordeal, and i realized that she was at the mercy of her managers just as i was.  i was mad at myself because i had allowed myself to forget all those qualities i worked at so long and so often.

how had i permitted myself to become so caught up in this story of an invented need to get on with my business?  how had i given in to so many negative emotions?  how had i allowed myself to feel such animosity towards the store management?  why hadn't i considered that there might be many circumstances that prevented these managers to attend to my needs in a timely fashion?  certainly, the store managers were in the wrong by never offering a convincing explanation or for failing to apologize for my inconvenience, but that doesn't excuse my failure to live according to my most deeply held code of conduct.

it took me several days of beating myself up to forgive myself and to accept that i won't always be the person i strive to be.  i spent much time retelling the story of this event and suffering because of my reaction to it.  now, as i look back my anger is not rekindled.  i can accept my failing and resolve to let it instruct me in the future.  my anger and the subsequent going over and over the events and my reactions to them punished me multiple times, and i was stung by many arrows.  i am grateful that rational thinking has taken over, and i've been able to move past my anger.

my prayer today is that we can all let go of those negative emotions that lead to repeated suffering, that we can forgive our own shortcomings and make the right effort to be instructed by our failings.  may we accept our own imperfections and show love to ourselves by working to overcome them.  shalom

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