I must have been 7 years old when the kids from across the street invited me over to their house across the street to play basketball. There were about 6 kids playing and during the game as young kids will do they started running with the ball and dribbling with both hands. I protested “You can’t do that. Double dribble.” Nobody listened and they proceeded to play the same way. Then when they would run and take 6 steps before shooting I would call traveling and yet still nobody cared. I got really upset. This is not how you play the game. I had watched basketball on TV and there are rules. You just can’t do that. I got all upset, first that they weren’t playing by the rules and second, no one would listen to me. I went across the street and complained to my dad. I told him what was going on and explained that they weren’t playing by the rules. When I explained to him they weren’t playing by NBA rules he told me they were playing by driveway rules. “What’s driveway rules?” I asked. “It’s their driveway. They make up the rules.”
This episode is symptomatic of what would plague me for the next several decades of my life. I always expected people to play by the rules. I was always playing by my own set of rules while other people often play by their own. I could never understand that and this would be the source of many a frustration for me throughout my life. Whenever people don’t follow the rules whether they be actual written rules or my own set of ethical rules I get judgmental, frustrated and obnoxious. I just don’t get it.
Some 35 years later I heard a vital sentence that would help me deal with people who play by their own rules. It is better to be in right relation than to be right. I got caught up in justifiable anger time and time again in my life. Until I started to realize that the anger did not serve me. What good is it to be right if you are angry and your relationships with people suffer? Trying to teach people a lesson, or just keeping my frustration to myself leaves me angry, unsettled and often dominates my mind. It’s like I give people free rent in my head.
The lesson I have learned in life is that I need to change myself. Trying to change the world around me is an exhausting and futile effort. It is much easier to change yourself than it is to change the world. There are almost 8 billion people in the world, changing them all is not going to happen but I can change one person, myself, and that would be enough.