This is a truth that I really dislike--it disturbs me
a lot, because it's so often true that I react strongly to
things that other people do or ways that other people act
because I do similar things, or I act in similar ways, and
I don't like that about myself. I'd rather just
point the finger and say something like, "Isn't that
terrible?" But if I'm truly aware of what's
going on, I recognize something of myself in the action
that I don't like seeing.
It's not a hard and fast law, of course. Tailgaters
irritate me, and I don't tailgate. But one of the
things I can learn about myself from this irritation is
that safety really matters to me, and tailgaters create
very unsafe conditions.
But I was talking to someone recently who didn't allow me
to get a word in edgewise. I thought it was rather
rude, and it did irritate me. A few hours later,
though, when I was with a student, I found myself talking
probably much more than I should have. I stopped and
thought, "Do I do that, too?" and of course, the
answer had to be yes. I was doing the exact same
thing that irritated me in another person. I can
rationalize, of course, and come up with reasons for which
I was more justified in talking more and listening less,
but. . . .
If we want to, we can see irritation as a growing
tool. We definitely can learn about ourselves when
we're irritated, either by figuring out why we feel as we
do, or recognizing ways of acting that simply aren't what
we would like them to be. Either way, we can come
out richer from our irritations--perhaps that's where the
term "pearls of wisdom" originated?