My parents taught me very early about the importance of attitude. Learning how to adjust it was a very important part of my up-bringing.
However, I first heard about the "10/90 rule" in regards to attitude and life during my teen years from Charles Swindoll. I had the following quote posted in my closet during high school so I could be reminded of its truth daily:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of
attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is
more important than the past, the education, the money, than
circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people
think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or
skill. It will make or break a company . . . a church . . . a home. The
remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we
will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past . . . we cannot
change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change
the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we
have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what
happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you . . . we
are in charge of our Attitudes.” (Charles Swindoll)
This is always true, but it is especially true when dealing with living in another country. I must carefully guard my attitude and reaction to the things around me. Sometimes it is a self-talk discussion where I must tell myself to choose to think and, thus, feel a certain way.
Let me give you an example.
I live among thousands of Taiwanese people in a huge apartment complex. I don't get a lot of mail, so I check my mail box regularly but not often. The apartment complex has security guards who are supposed to watch the comings and goings of the people and open the safety bar to allow residents to park in the basement.
These security guys also tell me when I have mail. (This is not part of their job description.)
At first, it was only when I got a package that they would gesture making the shape of a box and shout "package" in Chinese at me when I rode in on my scooter. Then they started telling me about every.piece.of.mail--every postcard, every bill, every advertisement. Friday night, one of them even ran down from his basement bar-opening post, shouting my name in Chinese as I disappeared up the stairs in order that he might get to my mailbox and open it so that he could be ready to help me retrieve my electricity bill.
So, I have a choice.
I can (A) feel annoyed that I and my mailbox are being watched so closely and/or feel annoyed that these men don't think I am adult enough to check my own mail or (B) be grateful that the security guys care about me and want to make sure I get my mail in a timely manner.
It might not seem like it, but I tell you sometimes B is a really hard choice to choose.
And this is just one example. Here are some more:
People stare at me. Do I (A) decide this is rude and start to harbor negative feelings towards all strangers or (B) remember that I might be the first or one of the few white people they've ever seen in person and be grateful for their interest in me?
Children and teens shout strange things to me in English. Do I (A) ignore them and grumble inside about how bad their English is or (B) with a smile and a glance in their direction, shout a pleasant reply back because really they might be trying to be friendly?
Complete strangers ask me stupid questions. Do I (A) put them off and get offended by their nosiness or (B) try to be as friendly as I can as I once again answer the same stupid question for the umpteenth time this month, being thankful for their interest in me? (Actually, even the fact that I am choosing to call it a "stupid question" lets you in on the fact that I am choosing to think these questions are stupid when I could choose to think of them as friendly "get to know questions" instead.)
And the list goes on . . . and on . . . and on.
And again, it might not seem like it, but I tell you sometimes it is really hard to choose B.
But, let me tell you this too . . . when I do choose B, life is OH SO MUCH better. Sweeter. Enjoyable. The world is friendlier and living here is great.
And, in reality, because I am supposed to be salt and light, choosing B makes sharing Christ's love so much easier. Not just because "they" see a changed person, but also because my 'tude is right and I can actually feel loving towards "them."
When I start to choose As more often then Bs it time for me to spend some extra time alone with the One who excels at 'tude-adjusting.