Last week, a man shouted at me in my office carpark. But he didn’t just shout at me – he spat racial slur at me.
It started innocently enough.
I was driving in to work. It was a regular Monday morning. I had my happy music playing, I was ready to conquer the world at the start of the week.
The carpark at work has 4 levels underground. I drove into the first level, B1. I usually go straight down to B4. Nobody really parks there and I am spoilt for choice with options.
Just as I drove in to B1 to head down, the car directly in front of me stopped. He was not indicating left or right, his hazard lights were not on, there were no parking bays around him so it didn’t look like he was really going anywhere. He just… stopped.
I waited a while, but when he didn’t move, I gently tooted him. A kind of “Hey sir, right behind you FYI” type of toot.
Instead of moving out of the way, perhaps moving to the side so I could go through, he chose to step out of his car and walk toward me.
At this point I was still oblivious as to what was about to happen. My first thought was, “Oh, something’s wrong with his car. He’s asking me for help.”
I winded down my window and said, “Hi” with a smile.
And that’s when it started.
“What is wrong with you??” he said quite aggressively.
I was taken aback.
“What do you mean?”
“No seriously, what is wrong with you?” he said angrily, his voice rising.
I looked around. There were no empty parking bays around so I was still confused as to what was happening, but I clued into the fact that he was not happy he got a toot from me.
“I think you need to calm down. My tooting was just a reaction to your sudden stop telling you that I’m behind you. You weren’t moving nor indicating anything. I would appreciate if you would not be aggressive like this.”
I tried to be as calm as possible. One thing I know for sure, is that you cannot treat aggression with aggression. And in Malaysia, there are quite a few bad road rage cases, so I’m always mindful to avoid these. The last thing I wanted was to get hurt or lose my life in the hands of someone who couldn’t manage their temper over something small such as a minor traffic incident i.e. a toot.
“How can you be so stupid? What is wrong with you people?” he said to me.
Again, I looked at him, focussed on my breath and said, “Calm down. Are you OK?”
At this point, he’s still saying stuff to me, but I was paying more attention to my surroundings. If I need help, where do I get it? Is anyone coming up behind me? Is there a security guard in here somewhere?
There was. A guard was taking a slow walk to my car.
At this point Angry Man must have seen him too because he turned to walk back and then said, “All you f%#$ing Asians are the same.”
Wow. I didn’t see that coming.
Funny how only in that moment did I realize he was white. With a British or Australian or New Zealander accent. I couldn’t tell. Up until then, I just saw an angry person. Now I saw an Angry White Male. But something told me to pay attention to every detail in case I would need to pull up any facts later (heaven forbid). What was he wearing? What car is he driving? I’ll never forget that face.
I was still calm regardless, but as he walked away, I couldn’t resist saying back, again very calmly, “Wow. That’s a very racist thing to say…”
He looked back at me just before getting into his car and said, “It’s not racist. It’s an observation.”
In the moment, I really wanted to call him an ass and tell him that was an observation too, but I knew this was one of those moments where I was being tested and I needed to walk away (or drive away) not having stooped to his level at all.
The upper hand I had was that I did not lose my cool. I didn’t even frown as he shouted at me. I just stared at him blankly as though this was a huge surprise to me. Yes, with my eyebrows raised and eyes wide open in surprise and all.
And really, it was.
He got into his car, but just barely moved it to the side. I managed to drive past him. He seemed to stay in the same spot the whole time, so I’m still confused as to what he was really trying to do that day. I don’t see where he could have parked his car, unless he was planning on parking it illegally and not in a bay.
So who was this guy and what was his problem? I left it to the fact that he was someone having a bad day, and choosing to snap at me. Perhaps he saw I was a woman in his rearview mirror and this gave him more power for his lash out and be a bully.
I was a bit shaken. While I was calm throughout the whole experience, once it was over, the physiological effect kicked it. I was trembling a little, and I was also a little afraid I would bump into him in the elevator on the way up to the ground floor as I headed to my office.
Would he start shouting at me again?
I wasn’t going to live in fear though and was ready for anything if I did bump into him, but what really shocked me most was how anyone could have the heart to say something to someone, that would actually make them feel hate or embarrassment to be in their own skin.
How could he pinpoint my race for what actually happened?
That’s what disturbed me most. It may have just been verbal, but it was vicious. Ouch.
I got into my office safe and sound, no sight of Angry Man again, but I was still shaken. I wanted to forget the incident and I needed to do it fast if I wanted to continue my day and have a productive one at that. After all I was safe with no physical harm.
And then I remembered a 2-minute video I had just watched the other week which snapped me back on the right path.
If I hadn’t seen this video, I would have probably been more upset than I was. How timely that it came into my life just a few days prior.
It was a video on anti-bullying and the video starts with a powerful message that I’ll always remember. A message that bears so much truth. One that I reminded myself of over and over again everytime I thought about Angry Man and saw myself getting upset all over again.
Hurt people hurt people.
Angry Man was a Hurt Man. He was having a bad day. Certain things were not going his way. Maybe he was having problems with his wife or girlfriend or boss or just someone. Maybe he hated Asia and being here (to each his own). Maybe his father and/or whole family is racist. Maybe he was shouted at growing up so this is all he knows. Maybe nobody loved him enough for him to know what love is – enough to never want to hurt anyone else.
I came up with a list of scenarios, but really, they didn’t matter. What mattered was that I could actually let this go versus letting it live in my head. In that moment when he was raising his voice at me, I can only hope that I showed him a new way for confrontation. One that was calm, trying to explain things out, not retaliating with the same aggression he put out.
Who knows, maybe he felt really bad after. Maybe he lost sleep that night thinking about how he bullied me and how I didn’t fight back to ruin his day further. Maybe I sparked a thought in him to try to confront people differently in the future. Or not confront at all. At least not over something small like a gentle toot.
I can only hope.
The point of this article is really to help us release our own hate and anger. I could easily hold on to what this man did, and in turn, take that same anger out on someone else simply because this experience happened to me and therefore I think it’s alright if I do it back to someone else. I could have allowed that to ruin my day and then in effect, ruin the day of those around me by being miserable or grouchy.
There are times I have flashbacks about Hurt Man and I catch myself having thoughts like, “Why don’t you go back to your own country or whatever country you think is perfect along with it’s people?!” but then I remind myself that it’s my Hurt Side saying those things and how pointless that is in the end. Hurt Man and I were in that basement carpark together at that very moment for a reason, each of us to hopefully learn something from it, rather than letting our anger or defensiveness get in the way.
Shit is going to happen to us. People are going to hurt us and try to take us down to feel more superior. But that’s no excuse for us to ever behave the same way and then as a result, take things out on others or bring them down with our ruined energy or to make ourselves feel better.
I forgive that man. He doesn’t know any better – or maybe he does but just slipped up. We all have those days, nobody is perfect. In that moment, it was what it was, so why spend an ounce of energy thinking about him and harping about that?
Anytime I have mini flashbacks of what happened, I immediately remind myself that “hurt people hurt people” and then I change my thoughts to something happy.
I think about all the hugs I got from my colleagues as soon as I went up and told them what happened to me. (OK maybe I asked for my hugs but at least I got them.) I think about how my day turned around and I had an amazing Monday filled with laughs and kick ass work accomplishments.
How blessed am I?
I had a bad start and I was showered in hugs in the middle and at the end of it. Poor Hurt Man probably had more fights that day and zero hugs. So I virtually share the hugs I got with him, ones I hope he somehow feels. He deserves it too, regardless of that “ass” moment.
We all have them.
So if you haven’t watched the video above, please do. It not only shows you a great way to deal with bullying by coming from a place of love, but it will also help you realize that it’s not worth holding on to any hurt or pain if someone has caused harm to you.
And it will make you start to think about how you treat others when you are in a place of pain too.
Bigger yet – it will make you think about any type of injustice toward humanity. The source of it all, and what it will take to cure it. Love. So easy yet so hard to put in effect for many.
Additionally, this basic theory that “hurt people hurt people” has also helped me release some past pain from other situations that were more intense than that with Hurt Man, like aggressive and mentally abusive relationships with 2 ex-boyfriends. While I’m proud I walked away both times, I always held an angry space for those experiences. Now I release them all. I suddenly forgive anyone who has ever hurt me with their words or actions.
If you think about it, they were “shaped” that way through their own experiences, perceptions and filters in life – we all are, in every way of our being.
They’re just hurting, and don’t know any better. It doesn’t make what they did right, but it helps me process the situation in a healing manner. I release myself from that experience, and I get to move forward. I’ll be damned if I am sensitive enough about how someone treats me that their “problem” becomes my own.
No one has the power to steal your happiness, only you have the power to give it away.
So just let it go, send them love, and focus on what makes you happy. Flip your thoughts around and own it.
Ever been verbally/physically attacked by a stranger or someone you love? What are some of your tips for dealing with that emotional pain?