One of my favourite times of the day is riding to and from work. I love the feeling of knowing I’m keeping fit while at the same time saving money and the environment! Yes, I’ll admit it! I am a MAMIL ( middle aged man in lycra) I also like observing people. One thing that strikes me as interesting is the reaction of other riders I meet along the way. I always make it a habit to greet cyclists coming the other way, even if it’s just a smile or a nod. It’s interesting to see the reactions I get. You get the ones that smile back, the ones that nod their head and the ones that look straight ahead. Now granted, when you’re powering up a hill, the last thing you feel like is giving someone coming the opposite direction a big grin, ( especially when going up a hill is as challenging as it is for me!) One thing I have to guard myself from doing though is drawing assumptions about the other cyclists based on their responses.
It would be easy to make a negative judgement about the ones that don’t respond, accusing them of being conceited, unfriendly, etc. Now, granted, after greeting the same person about 100 times and still getting ignored you start to wonder what their problem is! Two cyclists come to mind, a man and a woman. The woman cycles very slowly, looking like if she slowed down any further, she’d topple over. She is very deliberate and serious, looking straight ahead and never looks my way. The guy wears large, dark sun glasses, rides with his head tilted slightly and a very serious look on his face. Neither of them have ever acknowledged me when I have greeted them, which I have done many times.
The trap that is so easy for us humans to fall into is judging people by their reactions. It really seems to be part of human nature to assume the worst about people, doesn’t it? How often do we think someone’s upset at us because they didn’t respond when we waved to them across the street or they seem in a bad mood at work.
But what would happen if we looked for alternative reasons, ones that avoided thinking the worst, ones that came from a standpoint of positiveness, understanding, compassion and dare I say it, logic! I started thinking about that lady, what if she had a terrible accident in the past and riding is part of her therapy and it’s a struggle for her, that’s why she goes so slowly and is so serious? What if that guy that never responds has been hurt by others in the past and has issues with trusting people. Or maybe he’s extremely shy, or maybe even deaf! ( after all, he never wears earphones like other riders)
The fact is, when we judge others, we only harm ourselves. We waste our energy on being resentful and negative. There is a strength to be gained from assuming the best about others, looking for positive alternatives for the way they are. Once you make that decision to avoid critical judgements, you are freeing yourself from the chains of negativity. It’s very liberating!
For my part, I have made a commitment to keep on smiling and being friendly to those I meet, particularly the two people I mentioned. And guess what? a little while back, I got a smile from the lady! And, recently the guy grunted a “G’day mate”. Wow!