December 2009



trying to come up with an idea for my next column — this one — she suggested, with a teasing nod toward one of her co-workers: “How about working with difficult people?” Her colleague’s good-natured retort was: “Yes, but which of us is the difficult person?” The 3 of us shared a laugh at this, and then we returned to our other tasks.

As I walked back to my own workplace I started thinking about how we probably all are at times difficult to work with, even with people we ourselves may find difficult. I once worked with someone who got increasingly negative as others around her got positive, apparently thinking this was evidence that she had it worse than the rest of us and then wearing that as if it were a badge of honor.  This created a tense, even toxic, atmosphere at times.

We’ve probably all experienced a negative reaction to an ungrateful person, a demeaning joke or a hurtful act; and a positive reaction to an unexpected smile, a good deed or an upbeat story. Some people tend to bring us “down”, while others make us “feel good” — why?

Abdul-Baha, the Son of the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote “. . . as diseases in the world of bodies are extremely contagious, so, in the same way, qualities of spirit and heart are extremely contagious . . . both health and sickness are contagious.”

When I think about the people in my life, past and present, I realize that those who made me feel good didn’t do so because their lives were perfect but because they had a healthy attitude and their focus was outward, not inward.  Even when they have difficulties — and indeed they do — they do not dwell on the negative and try to drag others down with them. Good friends see each other in the best and the worst of times, and not every day will be a happy one, so I am thinking here about the overall experience.

One of my favorite lines from the Baha’i Writings includes the phrase “Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity”, reminding me not to take for granted either the good or the bad that I may be experiencing at any given time. Instead I should share what I have and realize that my troubles will have a gift within them as well. In both cases, if I can maintain confidence in the fullness of my life then I can fulfill another phrase in that same Writing about being with others: “Look upon him with a bright and friendly face”. My hope is that I can be the source of wellness and not dis-ease, since both are indeed contagious.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2009