I tried ignoring the man who was sitting two tables over from me at the pizza joint where I hole up and write on Thursday evenings. I really did. I tried tuning out his volume-ten speaker-phone calls to customer service lines to complain about overpriced phone contracts and slow uploads. I tried ignoring his critical comments about menu items, portion sizes, and wait times. By the time he started a line-item interrogation of food prices on his check, I was honestly just thrilled that he’d be leaving soon.
But then he started in on the waitress with loud criticism and cursing, and I couldn’t ignore anymore. As he ranted that the charge for extra salad dressing was an insult to the customer, I piped in that what was REALLY insulting to customers was being subjected to his belligerence for the last hour.
I was hot. I was shaking. And I was the next target.
He stood and took a few steps toward me, staring me down and asking if I was butting my nose in where it didn’t belong. I stared right back as I told him I wasn’t going to stand by and watch a young woman be bullied and harassed — and he wasn’t going to bully me either.
(Here’s the part where I remained seated even though I am 5’11”, big boned and big a lot of other things, and I was sure I had both inches and pounds on the dude. This is also the part where I kept the Napoleon complex and short man’s syndrome comments to myself even though I was brimming with spite and venom.)
From the other side of the dining room, a twenty-something kid stood up and joined in, saying that I was right – that The Bully’s behavior was rude and obnoxious.
The Bully turned and hollered at the young man, “You want me to come over there and SQUEEZE your HEAD?” Then he mumbled some more profanity and called me a stupid broad before huffing out the door.
I reassured the waitress that she handled the whole situation smoothly. I thanked her for the awesome service and left a larger tip than usual. I was relieved that she seemed okay, but I couldn’t stop thinking of what had happened.
I thought about The Bully for days. I thought about the things he said to that waitress and to me, and wondered what kinds of things he says every day the people in his inner circle.
I thought about bullies in general – the way they manipulate and intimidate, nitpick and degrade. I thought about the sad truth that maybe they learned how to bully by being bullied themselves.
I wondered what might have happened if I hadn’t spoken up. Would someone else have defended the waitress? How long would The Bully have gone on? Has anyone stood up to him before? The customer service employees on the telephone didn’t. The woman he was with didn’t. The waitress didn’t.
If you know me or follow my blog, you know I’m into encouraging and supporting girls and women. I’ve coached high school sports and lead small group studies for teen girls at church. I’ve worked as a client advocate and served on the board of directors at a local pregnancy resource center. I’ve mentored young moms and organized playgroups and outings in order for women to have a place to support one another. I’m on the steering committee for our local chapter of MOPS and Moms Next, and my dear friend and I are about to begin a Missional Moms study group to help women discover purposeful living.
I think it’s safe to say I’ve identified my passion.
But man, what I’ve never thought of — never realized, is that underneath that driving passion is an intensely touchy, red, hot button.
That night at the restaurant, I was able to convince myself to remain calm when I thought the man was just a grumpy, miserable complainer. But when he started harassing and degrading another woman, I just COULDN’T. I couldn’t let him think he was getting off scot-free on that one — that nobody noticed or cared. I cared. My hot button had been pushed.
Each time I’ve thought about hot buttons this week, I’ve thought about purpose. A lot of people in my community who are carrying out purposeful work have big, red, touchy hot buttons, too.
A friend who gets fired up when healthy women are deprived of natural birth experiences has trained to become a doula so that she can advocate for women to have choices and voices during labor and delivery.
A woman who can’t stand the thought of kids going without appropriate shoes started collecting footwear to donate to children in need.
A group of folks sickened by animal abuse started a rescue ranch for rehabilitating mistreated or neglected horses.
These people have obvious passion for their work, but part of what drives them to action is the desire to stand against something that they just cannot tolerate. At one time or another, their hot buttons were pushed, and they chose to do something about it.
Tell me about you…
What triggers your hot button?
Is your hot button linked to your choice of career or hobbies?
How could identifying your hot button reveal purpose and benefit your family, community, and beyond?