The perfect time to share how my 4 year old daughter reminded me of an important way to show compassion and care for those around us.
We recently enjoyed a day of treats together, including a trip to the cinema to watch the film Penguins of Madagascar.
The film is about an evil octopus who seeks revenge on the penguins who he thinks destroyed his life. In every zoo he inhabited, he got ignored and moved on whenever the very cute penguins arrived. All visitors only cared about them!
After the film my 4 years old girl (above by the lake where we live) looked a little pensive and said:
“I think the naughty octopus was actually sad. That’s why he was so naughty.”
When I asked her why she thought that, she responded:
“Because they took him away from his home.”
I was struck by how early in life we learn how people’s behaviour isn’t always quite what it seems on the surface.
- When people are sad, disappointed, feel excluded or ostracised they easily start behaving in ways that only ensures that they’ll continue to be excluded and sad.
- When they feel stressed, let down or upset with a loved one, a colleague or friend, they get grumpy and short and generally unpleasant or awkward to be around.
Yet, we often forget or lose patience with this fact as we grow older.
Resulting in two unhelpful situations easily arising:
- Us getting impatient and quickly offended by others’ behaviour because we judge it rather than try to understand it.
- Us allowing our own sad or stressful moments making us behave in ways we don’t want to.
We can all think of examples of people who behaved strange or unpleasant in the past (or present). We may have avoided them, thought they’re weird and unfriendly.
What my little girl’s comment reminded me of was the beauty of trying to go back to being a young child exploring how the world works and then have the patience and compassion with each other to scratch the surface and look underneath.
Because of course she was right; the octopus was very sad! And it’s most often sadness that drives bad behaviour.
Most people aren’t fundamentally bad. So if we stop judging those around us, and instead try to dig beneath the surface, we might find there’s a misunderstanding, a relatively easy fix, a way we can make a positive difference to them and ourselves.
Let’s reach out and spread some love rather than judge this February!