When I was little we had this VHS tape (yes, pre-DVD days) that had several Dr. Seuss cartoons on it. One of them was The Zax. It wasn’t my favorite because it was slow and the main characters just stood there. It’s this really short story of these two creatures, the Zax. This species is very stubborn and prideful. One Zax is walking one way and another coming from an opposite direction. They end up intersecting and landing right in front of the other. Because they’re so set in the ways and so stubborn neither will let go of their beliefs that the other should budge. So they just stand there staring at each other. Waiting and waiting and waiting as the seasons pass, as cities and civilizations are built around them, as huge highways are built over them. That’s how it ends. Neither of them moving. You can see why as a kid this wasn’t my favorite. It was boring…however, it stuck.
Now as an adult we see figural Zax’s all over the place. People so set in their views that they’d rather stand still in their spot adamant about their opinions and their thoughts than learning to let go and move forward. Family relationships, friendships, work relationships get stuck when two opposing ideas, thoughts, opinions intersect and neither side will budge or let go.
I know a Zax right now. I’m sure you do too. Many, in fact! There was an argument too many years ago to even remember. They each have this belief that they’re right and that the other side is wrong. Neither side will budge. They each feel that the other one is to blame and as a result of waiting for the other person to do something they each stay STUCK, not moving as time passes, as years pass, as the world continues to move on around them. Neither is willing to let go so they can move on.
This is so disempowering. Both people really feel that they were wronged and that they CAN’T move on UNTIL the other person DOES something about it. They’re stuck waiting for THEM to fix it. Not realizing that THEY are capable of stepping to the side themselves and choosing to end the squabble. EVEN IF IT IS BIG and seemingly unforgivable – is it worth it to YOU to stay stagnant, stuck, unmoving, not progressing over?
To some, it is. But why waste such precious time waiting for someone else to do what you are capable of doing yourself? If you can’t step to the side and move on for them, can you do it for you?
Jody Moore* taught me this great phrase of calming or dispelling an argument or possibility of an argument. She said, try these words: YOU COULD BE RIGHT.
It doesn’t say they ARE right. It says, they COULD be. This is what the other person WANTS to hear! They want to feel validated in their opinions. They want to be heard and seen. EVEN if they’re not right in your book – there is always, always, always room to see if there’s a possibility that they could be – obviously the other side THINKS so adamantly that they are right. Maybe for a small fraction of a second you could try and see that. Tell them, “You could be right” – then think about it, how could they be right?
This immediately starts to dispel angry feelings…for you and for them. Byron Katie always says that:
“Defense is the first act of war”
When you’re set in your ways and stubborn not moving, not willing to budge or even look at the situation from a different perspective – you’re just defending your views, you’re initiating the first act of war. What happens next? More than likely their walls are going to go up in defense too. Then little by little you both become like the Zax, stuck in your views and no longer progressing.
It doesn’t take both sides to dispel the tension, just one. When you’re upset and angry and feeling justified in your views what doest that feel like for you? What does being angry for years feel like? Why would you want to hold on to that for so long? Why would you want to remain stuck and not progressing? If you were given the choice today to move on, would you take it?
You can. Right now, this very second you can. You don’t need them to agree with you. You don’t need them to apologize to you even if you feel like you do, you don’t. It’s a belief you have that you think you need them to. It’s a thought it’s not a circumstance. You WANT them to apologize. You want them to see how much the situation has hurt you – but are you willing to remain stuck waiting for THEM to change- knowing that they might never budge?
Give yourself the apology you need to hear. Give yourself validation and understanding. Let yourself be free from the stagnant path you’re on and be willing to be the first to step to the side and move on – EVEN IF they still remain stuck in their path and never willing to budge. You don’t control them just as they don’t control you. You are free and can choose to move forward.
I heard this story once of these two men that got into a terrible feud for years. They were once the best of friends. They lived near each other, their kids played together, they went to the same church together. One day one them (let’s call him Fred) called the other (George?) and said he had an investment opportunity and if he could borrow some money. George trusting Fred implicitly went to the bank and pulled out a loan for Fred in good faith that Fred would make good on his promised and pay it back quickly. What happened next was unexpected.
When it came time for the first loan payment that Fred promised he’d pay George found out that Fred had squandered all the money. He never paid a cent back to George or even acknowledged that a debt was due. Fred also stopped speaking to George altogether. George completely hurt, confused, and betrayed went to Fred to confront him. Fred played ignorant and acted as if he didn’t know what George was talking about – which only enraged him even more. Now George has this huge problem. He can’t afford to pay the loan and all his bills. George ended up having to work multiple jobs to pay the debt that Fred owed him. For years he was so bitter and enraged at how Fred had wronged him. He wasn’t budging in his path. Why should HE have to? Fred had wronged HIM! He had to get multiple jobs to pay off the debt that Fred had caused! Why should he budge?!
And for years he stayed there in his anger, resentment, and hatred of Fred. Then one day it was too much for him to bear. He prayed and asked God to take away this poison that was tearing apart his soul and it was taking a toll. It had altered the friendship, his family life, his relationship with his wife, and just about every area of his life. With the help of God he was able to change his thoughts about Fred little by little. It took a long time but George did learn to forgive Fred if only for the sake of letting the bitterness go from his own body. He spoke to God saying, “You could be right. Maybe it’s time I learn to step aside so I can move on.”
The loan to the bank had finally been paid off. George was feeling better, more free learning to forgive and move aside to take a new path. Not justifying Fred’s actions or his role in his struggles. George did it so George could move forward and continue progressing and in time he did learn to love Fred again in his mind.
Then one day he was at the mall with his family and he saw Fred across the way. He felt that sick feeling in his gut and immediately had all the old thoughts, memories, feelings pop back up for him. It had taken years for him to let all this anger go and forgave him but now seeing him in person made him question if he had really forgiven him or if he were back to being the Zax stuck in this path of anger and resentment. Praying for strength and aid he was prompted to go to Fred and shake his hand letting it be made clear that the past was the past and George was willing to step aside so he could progress. So he did.
Fred seeing George moving toward him feared that George would punch him or hurt him for the pain he had caused him. When George went to shake his hand Fred collapsed in his arms and cried in regret and in sorrow at what he had done to him. George finally got the apology he waited years and years and years for but he didn’t need it anymore. He had given himself the apology years prior and moved on. I don’t know what happened next. If they became friends again, if Fred paid him back finally? I don’t know. I hope so but what was important was that George took the first step to the side, off his well paved path of anger and justification in order for him to move forward and get out from being stuck.
This is obviously an extreme case but if George can move on from this maybe you can move on from your well paved path too? Can you say, “You could be right?” in order to take the first step to the side? To create a new path for you? A path that will keep you progressing and moving forward in your life instead of remaining stuck while all the world moves on around you?
Is it worth it to you to be able to move forward?
Is it worth it to be able to let go and embrace a new path – one without old grudges or negativity?
Practice it: You could be right.
See what happens. But above all remember that you don’t need them to do anything. You can set yourself free. You can feel how you wan to feel despite your circumstances. You are able to choose to take a different path anytime you’re ready. Don’t be like the Zax. Step aside so you can progress.
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Jody Moore: Bold New Mom