Ten years ago, my Uncle John passed away. Although in his eighty’s, it was hard on his son, Johnny. Three months later, Johnny’s only child, his beautiful fourteen year old daughter, was in a car that plunged into an icy Ohio River where she tragically drowned. Her mother, Johnny’s wife of more than twenty years, died from grief a mere eighteen months later. An overwhelming series of tragedies pushed my cousin into a deep depression. There was a noticeable change in his attitude and behavior. As difficult as he could be at times (angry outbursts, sullenness, isolation from family and friends) everyone understood and offered compassion and support. No one judged him. After all, he had every reason to be distraught and angry. It took years for Johnny to sort things out and be himself again.
Many years ago at the shelter, a ten year old boy named “Tim”, was a participant in the children’s group I facilitated each week. One day, I summoned the children into the resource room for our meeting. Tim defiantly refused to come. I playfully approached him, as I had done many times in the past, coaxing him to join us. He threw himself on the floor shouting “I don’t want to go!” Jokingly, I leaned over him and extended my hands to his. With a clenched fist, Tim swung as hard as he could and delivered a punch to my knee that would have made Joe Frasier proud. I dropped to the floor in agony as a coworker offered assistance. “What’s wrong with you?” she screamed at Tim. “There was no reason for you to hit Miss Janet! You’re in big trouble!”
Although Tim was not always the best behaved child, I knew something was wrong. With a little investigating, I discovered he had been sexually molested at the age of three. Lying prone on the floor with an adult hovering over him most likely triggered a frightening recollection of those horrific events. His reaction most likely was one of self-protection.
We often criticize people for their bad behavior claiming there was “no reason” for them to act in such a manner. Yet behind all behavior is a motive, a reason why we do the things we do. Most often, we are not privy to that information. I may not know why the store clerk was curt with me. Is she going through a personal crisis such as a divorce and dealing with fear and anxiety? While it is never acceptable to mistreat or disrespect another, there is always a reason why people act badly.
Being sympathetic to Johnny was easy: people understood the reasons behind his outbursts and sullenness. They shared in his grief and cared about him. We all have issues that originate someplace. I may not be privy to that information nor do I need to. Then again, I may know their reasons yet feel they are not valid. But that is not for me to determine.
We need to apply Johnny’s example in our response to others by refraining from judgment and responding with compassion and resolve. Remember, there is always a reason.
Janet Pfeiffer, internationally known speaker and award-winning author, is one of today’s most highly sought after seminar leaders. and is NJ State Certified in Violence Counseling.
As a leading authority in the field of anger management and conflict resolution, Janet serves as a consultant to such companies as the U.S. Army, U.S. Postal Service, AT&T, Hoffman-LaRoche, Rutgers University, Carnival Cruise Lines, United Way, YWCA, New Jersey Education Association, Care-One, Insurance Restoration Specialists, Learning Annex, William Paterson University Women’s Center, Catholic Community Services, Passaic County Community College, American Business Academy, Bergen County Police and Fire Academy, Cook’s College, Kean University, Rotary, Ocean County College, Kiwanis and more.
Janet received her N.J. State Certification in Domestic Violence Affairs and is a consultant and instructor at a battered women’s shelter.
Janet has spoken at the United Nations, Notre Dame University (for the NACSDC National Conference), has served as committee member and keynote speaker for the YWCA National Week Without Violence Campaign, and is a member of the National Police Suicide Foundation and past board member for the World Addiction Foundation.
She is a former columnist for the Daily Record and hosted her own cable TV and radio shows. Janet has also been a contributing writer to Woman’s World Magazine, Living Solo Magazine, Prime Woman Magazine and N.J. Family. She has recently appeared in Fusion, Alaska Business Monthly and more than 50 other publications.
As an inspirational speaker and private consultant, Janet is a frequent guest on radio and TV and has appeared on CNN, ABC News,The 700 Club, Lifetime, NBC News, Fox, CBS News, The Harvest Show, TruTV, Celebration and more than 100 top radio stations. She appears as a regular guest on WGUN Radio (Relationship Thursdays with DJ Kay and Janet Pfeiffer).
Janet also runs “The Antidote to Anger Group” for court ordered offenders and those with issues of anger. Additionally, she is a member of EAPA, NJAWBO, ISBOG and Visions in Motion Speaker’s Bureau.
Janet's books include: The Secret Side of Anger (endorsed by NY Times best selling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel), 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Vol.3 (co -authored with Mark Victor Hanson of Chicken Soup For the Soul), The Seedling’s Journey, The Angel and The Gift, The Orchids of Gateway Lane , Jordan's Promise and Dying To Be Safe: Ultimate Solutions to Violence.
She has been nominated for many prestigious awards including the Russ Berrie "Make a Difference Award", 2010 NJ Governor’s Jefferson Award, and has been presented with SOS "Positive Life Force" and "AOH" awards.
She has achieved recognition as an award winning author, photographer, and race walker. (1994/1995 NJ Gold Medalist; 1994/1995 National Gold, Silver and Bronze Medalist in marathon competition), and is also listed in the "Who's Who in Authors".
In 2001, she founded "Reunion of Hearts", Reconciling and Reconnecting Estranged Families", the nation's first non-profit support group of its kind dedicated to the emotional healing and reuniting of estranged family members.
Janet is a graduate of Englewood Cliffs College (now part of St. Peter’s).