How to Cope with Rudeness

Dear Dr. Tom: I got into an unpleasant altercation on an airplane recently. Another passenger was acting rude and entitled, slinging obscenities at me. I had no chance to truly communicate with this stranger, but just letting it slide seemed like it would empower them, as if to say it’s okay to act that way. Maybe that’s still the best option (since you can’t really change them), but it doesn’t feel good. Any advice?—K.K., online submission

DEAR KAY-2: You behaved commendably in this circumstance. The only way to thwart a bully is not to join the mob. I don’t subscribe to a golden age theory, where everything was better back in the 1950s, but the frequency of obstreperous behavior suggests we have grown accustomed to boorishness. The internet trolls have escaped cyberspace to appear in the marketplace.

And you’re right. We can’t fix other people, nor should we match the abusers with ascending countermeasures of our own, like vengeful action heroes do in movies. Bless, release, and move on. Bear no grudges but carry your peace within to a better marketplace.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Dear Dr. Tom: If God is so good, so all-powerful, why do bad things happen to good people?—G.E., Sandia Park, New Mexico

DEAR G.E.: You’ve raised the thorny issue of theodicy. I’m often asked about that, so let’s look at it again. Your question presupposes that the only way to square an all-powerful, all-good deity with the awful things happening in life is to say either God allows it or God isn’t good. The latter (God = not good) is impossible for me to contemplate. You could also eliminate free will and make us all predestined to suffering or triumph. But that’s not the world in which we actually live. Bad stuff happens, good stuff happens. Sometimes we’ve chosen poorly, sometimes ... well, stuff just happens.

So, why doesn’t a just, all-good God rescue us? That invites another question: What kind of chaos would result if an all-powerful God whimsically chose to intervene here but not there? Freedom of choice is costly, but without it no progress is possible. You’re not alone in your disquiet.

People have asked, “Where was God at Hiroshima?” Maybe at ground zero, within the victims. Does not the whole cosmos hurt when sentient beings suffer? Can we not do better than this? Is learning to make better choices the whole purpose of life?

Good luck with theodicy. Great minds have wrestled with this dilemma for a long time. Psalmists long ago chose to believe despite the enigma of life. “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works” (Psalm 73:28).

An Empty Nest

Dear Dr. Tom: My last child grew up and moved far away. The dog died. I am retired and secure, and finally alone with my husband in our beautiful home … Help! I’m going crazy with boredom!—Not on Vacation, Sarasota, Florida

DEAR CRAZY-NOT-VACATIONING: When the TV commercials show retirees, we’re always walking the beach or playing golf. Like you, plenty of active folks don’t know what to do with themselves when activity is no longer required. I have a few suggestions. First, don’t retire. Unless you want to, of course. Find something meaningful and keep doing it, perhaps in smaller measures, for as long as it’s satisfying. Second, get involved with groups of people who are doing things you enjoy, especially if they’re helping others. Religious communities are always eager for new blood. If you’re done with organized religion (I hope not!), try nonprofit organizations, or get involved with local politics. You could take classes at your community college or university. And don’t forget the public library. Finally, do fun things with your spouse. Date again. Who knows, you might discover renewed love. Whatever you decide, write me and I’ll pass along what worked or didn’t to my readers. Maybe they’ll go and do likewise.

This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.

About the Author

Rev. Thomas W. Shepherd, D.Min., former professor of theology and church history at Unity Institute® and Seminary, is the author of many Unity books. Send questions to [email protected].


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