Life in the Ripples
Every action (or refusal to act) creates a ripple that undulates out into the larger currents of life. The things we do, the words we say, the looks we flash, the moods we get into, the attitudes we give, all create such ripples in the waters we live in.
Each of the hundreds of daily decisions to act and react that we sometimes only half-consciously make is the equivalent to the act of tossing pebbles in a pond. They splash and start ripples that quiver across the pools of life in ever-enlarging circles of influence.
Those ripples wash up on the shores of other people’s lives as well, onto the banks of their hearts and minds.
Sometimes such ripples are hardly noticed. Other times, the ripples are larger, or they combine with other waves sent by other people, until they start to rock and capsize boats.
Sometimes the ripples are more in the form of emotional tsunamis, uprooting lives, destroying homes, and washing away the confidence, esteem or love of those we most care for.
The good news is that we can decide the nature of the ripples we send across the waters of life.
If I flip someone off (stick my middle finger up at another driver) on the freeway, for example, I send a ripple, a little wave that rides on the surface of that moment. But it doesn’t always end there.
Like in a pond, the ripple continues to vibrate through the water, sending little waves of emotion beyond the immediate set of circumstances, often touching others’ lives as well. Other drivers might see the finger, making the whole driving experience for them that much more unpleasant. It’s a ripple.
The guy I flip off is angry. He takes that anger to work or home to his kids. Another ripple.
His employees or associates or family members feel the stress of his bad mood. Another ripple.
They in turn may continue to encourage the rippling effect of that original splash in the pool of life as they interact with others in person, on Facebook, texting friends to complain.
Another complaint. A criticism. A sarcastic remark. A frustrated tone. More ripples.
And so goes the ripple effect spreading, widening, potentially rocking the boats of many, many lives.
If I yell at my kids, I send a ripple. If I gossip, I send a ripple. If I make an impatiently rude comment to a cashier or a waiter, I send a ripple. Remember, EVERYTHING we do sends ripples floating out into others’ lives.
I only control whether the ripple is positive or negative, not how big or how far its waves extend or how many times it bounces off one shore and starts a counter-ripple heading back in another direction.
One Ripple among Many
You are not the only one tossing pebbles in ponds. Everyone else is simultaneously sending little ripples undulating across multiple waters too. Some of them combine with others. Some positive waves bounce into and counteract negative ones. And vice versa.
What Stone We Toss is up to Us … Who it Touches is Not
Remember, we only control whether the ripple is positive or negative, and not much else about it. Once the ripple begins pulsating across the pond, there is little we can do to stop it. We can send new ripples, and enough of them so as to counteract the original negative effect of the first wave, but the original ripple still finishes its course until it finally fades into the general current of life.
But since we never can know how those ripples combine with other ripples to affect people we will never see or know, we have a responsibility to take care how we throw our pebbles.
Don’t Stress Over Some Negative Waves
Still, it is impossible to send only positive ripples in life. None of us is perfect. So don’t stress sending occasional negative waves over water surfaces. The key is to avoid the tsunamis and to send more positive than negative splashes.
Since everything we do sends these ripples, the good we do pulsates through life as well. The positivity with which we engage the world, the optimism we share, the kindness we express, the service we render, the expressions of gratitude and all the little compliments we give, the smile, the wave, the nod, our compassion and love and forgiveness all send ripples that soothe and calm and encourage and inspire others floating about on life’s waters too.
Most of the effects of the waters we stir will never be known by the ripple-maker. But we can be assured that the very act of living is the act of pebble-tossing and that ripples will vibrate out from the splash and people will be affected.
Are Your Ripples Smooth or Choppy?
So, what is the nature of most of the ripples that are the effect of the pebbles you toss? Are you tossing pebbles of kindness and patience? Or are you chucking stones and boulders of anger and disrespect and selfishness? Are they mostly positive or negative? Do they gently soothe or do they crash and splash and sink?
What kind of ripples have you sent rippling across the waters of life so far today? What are those ripples like on most occasions? What will they be like as soon as you finish reading this post?
All it takes to change the nature of that influence is to change the nature of your conversations and the attitude with which you send that influence rippling out into the universe.
In the end, we also must swim in the same ponds we’ve sent such ripples quivering across the water’s surface.
So choose well your stones and toss them gently. And do it with grace and kindness.
What do you think?
- How have others’ ripples affected you?
- What are your ripples like?
- Have you ever thought about your daily decisions like this?
- Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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