Conscious Motivation

People Are Suffering: Stop Taking It Personally

Conscious Motivation
People Are Suffering: Stop Taking It Personally


If we are serious about reducing the amount of suffering we experience, we must make a commitment to not let the negative energy of others rub off on us.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, “The Four Agreements”, I learned to “not take anything personally”.   This agreement was transformational for me, because it taught me how to let go of things that would have typically upset me for a considerable period of time.

Today, we will use ‘road rage’ or anger while driving as an example of something that we should not take personally.  Let’s say that somebody is being an inconsiderate driver and cuts you off, blows their horn, and even makes a disrespectful gesture.  The vast majority of the time, this person is suffering; they do not know who you are and they are simply angry at an object (your car). 

If we are not committed to focusing on positive energy, we will let that inconsiderate driver’s actions bruise our ego and ruin the present moment.

One day, while driving in Washington, D.C., a man aggressively blew his horn at me while I was backing out of a parking spot. This man was still 100 feet away!

Needless to say, I lost my temper and let him know how I felt about his rudeness. Here’s the problem: An hour later, my partner asks me, “Are you okay?”. I then realized that she could feel that I had subconsciously not let go of the negative energy from that thirty-second experience with the inconsiderate driver!

My partner and I were having a great Sunday morning up until that point, and I allowed somebody that I didn’t know—and who did not know me—to ruin an hour of the precious time we had together in our long-distance relationship. 

In that moment, I made a commitment to learn from the situation and to not let somebody else’s negative energy take away from my personal happiness and the joy of the present moment.

From my spiritual practice, I know that suffering is the cause of other people’s negative actions.  (Seriously, how many genuinely happy people do you see doing unkind things?) Many of us carry seeds of negativity within us as a result of experiences that we found unpleasant or were harmful to us. This causes suffering that—unless we are mindful—we continue to carry into the rest of our lives.

In that situation with the inconsiderate driver, I could have made one of two decisions:

1)    Allowed the driver’s action to bruise my ego; resulting in me losing my cool and forgetting the beauty of the present moment.


2)    Taken a deep breath and showed the driver love and compassion because I knew he was suffering. For example, I could have smiled at him gently and brought positive energy into his life.

If I had chosen decision 2, I would have been able to continue focusing on the positive in my life, and brought some positivity into his life. Because, I chose decision 1, I functioned as a channel through which the driver’s negative energy was transferred first onto me and then onto my partner, who could have transferred it further if she were not mindful!

If we want to make the world a better place, we have to learn to show compassion for those who are suffering. We can heal the world through love and kindness.

I leave you with a quote:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.”

- Martin Luther King Jr.