Recently I helped prepare for a bridal shower—my first such experience—and I was surprised to learn how much work goes into one of these affairs. For days I cut ribbons, made decorations, ran errands, blew up balloons, nodded my head in appreciation, and the like—and I was just a peripheral participant. I was impressed at the efforts expended by these women to celebrate this new bride's event. Men would just get some chips and dip and watch a ball game together.
On the evening of the shower, I transported a cloud of helium balloons to the location of the event. As I began unloading, a gust of wind blew several of them out of the minivan. I quickly grabbed balloons with both hands, but because I forgot that I was holding a pair of scissors in my right hand, I stabbed several balloons with a bang. Setting down the scissors, I corralled the remaining balloons, and the preparations for the shower continued.
At the moment I reached out with my hand to grab the balloons, I really was trying to help, but because I had scissors in my hand I did more harm than good. I stabbed a couple of balloons and startled the people around me. In our personal lives we cause similar problems because of the tools we use. When difficulties arise —when we're in conflict, for example —we reach out with tools like anger or victimhood to protect ourselves or to get what we believe we need. We might mean well. We are using the only tools we have. But with these tools we often cause only more harm. We hurt other people and leave ourselves more empty and afraid.
We must learn to put down the old tools. We must learn to put down the scissors and learn how to find much better tools with which to deal with people and situations. Fortunately, such tools do exist, and they're really not difficult to use. Rather than being angry and acting like victims and withdrawing, we can make conscious choices to tell the truth about our own selfishness. We can choose to find moments of unconditional acceptance. We can choose to be understanding of others and to care about their needs. As we choose these tools, the world around us changes in profound ways.