One key to living peaceably among others is to focus on the things within your control. In other words, avoid meddling and concentrate on your own affairs.
The advantage to this, as a character in the children’s story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), growled, “If everybody minded their business, the world would go round a great deal faster than it does.”
Our concerns might be worries over the past, present, or future. Not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others. We can be concerned about what is or isn’t happening politically or economically or the advantages of one group over another.
We might be concerned about the reasons for the neighbors’ barking dog, whether a colleague is dating someone that you don’t like, or whether Aunt Joan’s health is improving. Concerns are stand-alones and we all have them.
But when we concern ourselves with actions or words around someone else’s personal and private affairs, we are crossing the line into meddling or micromanagement.
Focusing or fretting over problems that are not within your control or that are matters of another person’s privacy makes for pushiness and unsolicited advice. Mindfulness of this tendency, however, can assist in moving the focus away from trying to change another or attempting to steer a situation as you alone see fit.
The attitude expressed in the Serenity Prayer is at the heart of good manners and proactively taking a “live and let live” approach. Letting go gracefully of what’s not ours to do or say is etiquette-fully sound. Being able to stop, mid-sentence, to re-calibrate is a masterful gesture of self-command: “Excuse me, I was saying something that needn’t be said. Please go on. What were you saying?” Listening attentively leads us to know when we need to stand back in the moment when we’re tempted by nosiness.
Extending kindness, friendliness, and helpfulness in ways recognizable to others is etiquette’s charge. Only as individuals can we choose to:
We benefit by looking for the strengths in others and by remembering and employing the old adage, “No one’s perfect.” When encountering others being not quite as we think they should be, it can help to remember that we, too, have our moments of imperfection in the eyes of others. In these moments, we can be reminded how beneficial it is to keep our focus on what is within our control rather than judging or attempting to direct the business of other people.
When you keep your attention on the things within your control, you don’t get bogged down with the cumbersome business of others. It’s the best way to keep your life simple, lighten your load. With this lightness of being, your world moves with ease and grace.