Today is a good day to take a breath.
Do not be mistaken. This post is not yet another one intended to discuss the well-established benefits of a meditation practice.
Rather, it seeks to contribute to a generalized goal of many. That of becoming a better person at the end of the day.
One of the reasons I decided to quit the practice of law was that of working on becoming a more enlightened being. I realize however that there will always be an attorney within me. In fact, I value many lessons learned throughout my career because they are intrinsic to attaining the goal of becoming a congruent person.
Attorneys have to be particularly mindful of what they write. If only because their written or spoken words can be construed as ethical violations that can end up destroying their career. In fact, the code of ethics that binds the legal profession represents the most stringent restraint on that class of professionals’ capacity to freely express their thoughts.
A most valuable piece of advice I received early on my legal career has proven to be essential in this pursuit. To wit: the capacity of patiently waiting before answering a scathing post, email or letter.
The first boss I ever had as an attorney taught me to abstain from immediately sending an irate knee-jerk message, letter or text in response to another. He taught me how predictably it would come back to bite me in the ass.
“Three things you cannot recover in life: the WORD after it’s said, the MOMENT after it’s missed and the TIME after it’s gone. Be Careful!” — Unknown
Beyond the practice of law, the habit of waiting prior to responding to any communication is a necessary practice in the daily pursuit of evolving in both the personal and professional realms.
Your instinctive reaction is probably that of going for instant gratification and unleashing your fury by immediately sending an equally scathing reply.
While the spoken word can be challenged on occasion, the written word lasts forever. It cannot be disproved.
Gone are the times that written words could occasionally evaporate with the fire of burning paper. Today, any electronic text written is bound to have eternal life. Long after the anger that precipitated the outburst becomes a forgotten memory, the written words will continue to exist.
Past experience must have proven to you that acting on the heat of the moment never reaps good results. Angrily replying in writing to someone may leave deep emotional scars or tear friendships apart. In a professional context, the ruptured camaraderie may never mend.
The irreversible emotional pain that spontaneously replying may perpetrate you or others weigh in favor of choosing to wait before reacting. You can decide to take a deep breath. You can choose to ignore the insulting comment or communication for a while. If the person or the occasion so calls for, you can ignore it forever.
Conversely, resolving to wait through a cooling period prior to sending a response always proves to be the best course of action to follow.
There is no doubt that it difficult to abstain from reacting to a scathing or hurtful message. Knowing that you can write a reply right away but refrain from sending it immediately thereafter makes it easier to practice restraint. Being aware of the fact that you can always send your angry note if you decide to do so makes it easier on your psyche to sleep on it for a couple of days.
When you put off sending a reply for a while and the anger has subsided, it is likely you will be glad you did not send it. You realize that abstaining from relaying it prevented undesired confrontation and animosity that only serves to burden your conscience. It perhaps saves you from having to apologize for it.
This is not to say that on occasion it becomes appropriate to emphatically defend yourself from a written attack. However, when such situations arise, you can reflect on its language for a couple of days and ensure you write only the facts. Surgically removing from your communication any adjectives that you may have sprinkled on its text will likely result in an acceptable reply.
I have come to corroborate that taking a breath and practicing restraint in this context prevents unnecessary drama and undesired, sometimes irrevocable consequences.
While this precept may seem obvious to most, on a daily basis I witness how many continuously fail to recognize the value in this practice. Recklessly offensive or hurtful Facebook posts, tweets, emails are constantly exchanged every day. As authors, we ignore the lasting damage that such exchanges cause to both us and our audience or recipients.
It always helps to keep in mind that when a snake bites you, it is not the bite that may cause your death. Instead, it is the poison that continues to seep through your veins what may eventually kill you.
Today is a good day to begin living a poison-free life.