I was talking – or messaging as many conversations are had these days – with a friend who was asking for help in how to interpret that persnickety of all insults, an office slight. She told me about the incident and then listed all the reasons it made her furious.
Her reaction triggered an image of myself a few years ago, dealing with difficult people in a confined setting: the strident, self-righteous indignant tones were so familiar.
“Think of murder as the number 10 on a scale of 1 to 10,” I said. “Where does this rank?”
“Four,” she typed back.
“Four?” I asked. Four was nearly halfway to murder. She explained the symbolic nature of the offending action and all the reasons her reaction was justified.
Our interaction reminded me of a talk I had in the first year I moved overseas.
“What is the worst thing that could happen?” Someone asked me in the middle of a rant about workplace antics.
“The worst thing?” I looked at her blankly.
“Yes, the worst.”
“Like losing being homeless?”
“No, the worst thing ever.”
“For everyone?” I had to think for a minute. “Nuclear annihilation?”
She had me describe it in detail. The flesh bubbling, then peeling off, having to live underground, the sudden scarcity of humanity.
“That’s your 10,” she said with a pat on my knee. “And compared to that, what’s this?”
In the 7 years or so since that conversation I have come a long way. The incident my friend was reporting was about a 2. But then again, it didn’t happen to me.
What’s your 10?