Updated: Jul 15
There were two couples who were neighbors living across from each other. One couple had arguments and conflict every day. The other couple lived very harmoniously. As time went on, the conflicting couple got tired and frustrated with always arguing, and they envied their harmonious neighbors.
One day, the wife from the conflicting couple decided to ask the wife from the harmonious couple what their secret to harmony was. The harmonious wife said, "Oh, simple. In your house, you're all good people. In our house, we're all bad people."
The conflicting wife was bewildered and said, "I don't understand."
The harmonious wife explained, "For example, let's say you put a cup on the table. Your husband accidentally knocks it over and it breaks. You believe that you are right and good in this matter, so you criticize him: 'What's wrong with you? How could you be so careless?' Your husband also believes he is the good guy, so he criticizes you back: 'What's wrong with you? You shouldn't put the cup so close to the edge of the table!'
But in my house, everyone is a bad guy. If my husband accidentally knocks a cup over, I would say, 'I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have put that cup so close to the edge of the table. It's my fault.' Then my husband would say, 'No it's my fault for being careless while walking. I'm sorry.' Then we happily clean up the mess together."
There is a Chinese saying that goes,
"Wise people fight for the blame. Stupid people fight to be right."
From this story, we can see how the more we try to put the blame on others, the more conflict we create. But when we are humble and take the blame, the conflict is resolved. Wanting others to take the blame is a sure recipe for unhappiness because everyone has an ego. Besides, we cannot control other people's behavior, we can only control ourselves.
Moreover, the way we treat others is how others will treat us back. So if we always blame others, others will naturally blame us back. But if we always apologize and respect others, others will also apologize and respect us back.
As Mencius said,
"One who loves others will constantly be loved by others. One who respects others will constantly be respected by others."
I remember hearing this and thinking, "But when I try to be patient and understanding to that person, they don't return the kindness! Then I get upset again." Later, I learned that relationships are like a bank balance. If I meet a stranger, our relationship bank balance is 0, so if I treat them nice, they will treat me nice back.
But for someone that I have had conflict with for a long time, we have a negative relationship bank balance. Apologizing or saying nice words once or twice is not suddenly going to bring the relationship balance back to positive. We have to accumulate over time by apologizing for our past mistakes and doing kind deeds. The more sincere we are, the faster the accumulation.
If we insist we are the good guys, our relationships might encounter more conflicts. If we insist we are the bad guys, our relationships will have more harmony.
Weekly Wisdom #229