Difficult Relationships, 5 A.M. Grumps, and Those Irate Wal-Mart Customers

Here is an inspiring guest post by Chadrick Black, author of The Greatest Harvest. You can follow him on Facebook. You can guest post, as well! Read how to here.

“We often talk to and treat others the way we talk to and treat ourselves.”

The above statement enters my mind each time I observe irritated customers degrading an employee at our local Wal-Mart. Some deliver on cue, eloquently expressed profanity and rage, demonstrating this is not the first time their opinion has been expressed in public. Others show sophistication comparable only with the sophistication involved in making Rice Krispies Treats.

And yet, some demonstrate that a temper tantrum in Wal-Mart is not just an issue I sometimes have with my three-year-old. Forty-year-olds still have them. And during these times, while other bystanders may feel uncomfortable, I strangely smile as my mind rewinds to 1999 and the origin of that opening statement.

When most people see their alarm clock turn 5 a.m., they are relieved that another hour or more of sleep is available before the day begins. But in 1999, 5 a.m. for me signified that, for the next eight hours, I would receive overdoses of criticism, profanity, tears, shouting, begging and depression. And that was just from the other counselors at the drug rehab center I worked at!

The clients, who were typically court-ordered, delivered the real challenges. (You know, the best part of waking up may be Folgers in your cup, but it sure isn’t a court-ordered drug addict in your office at 5 a.m.) Therefore, if you ever find yourself in a position of working drug rehab at that early, early morning hour, standing behind the person at Wal-Mart serenading the checkout girl with insults or just have difficult relationships in your life, my observations below are for you.

  • Observation Number One: Drug addicts, in general, are not morning people. (Nothing more needs to be said about this one.)
  • Observation Number Two:  If you think it is tough maintaining your composure with that guy at the office or your insensitive neighbor, try meeting a drug addict at 5 a.m. to discuss their “feelings.” (Their options were meeting me or prison, and they usually had to think about it.) I recollect being called names that reached so far into the depths of profanity that I had to look the words up to learn their meanings after the client left. He called me a what??? Oh, that’s what that means! Cool!
  • Observation Number Three: Everyone has the right to have a bad day, but the definition of “bad day” is subjective. You believe you are having one because you had a flat tire on your way to work. And then a client shares that their drug habit began as a way to cope with the death of their child from cancer, and today would have been that child’s sixth birthday. Trust me, you forget about your flat tire. Again, the definition of “bad day” is subjective, and it is important to keep your problems in perspective.
  • Observation Number Four: When you work in a drug rehab center that opens at 5 a.m., almost every customer is bringing the heat. How do you deal with it? You stop thinking about how the customer is treating you and start focusing on why they are treating you that way.  That is where the solution is found. And the best tool you have to extract this information is kindness. Plus, the old saying holds true: “Nothing is personal until you decide to make it personal.”

After a few months at the center, I concluded that the people who did not like me at 5 a.m. usually did not like themselves at 5 a.m. People who did not respect me at 5 a.m. did not respect themselves at 5 a.m. People who were rude to me at 5 a.m. were usually rude to themselves at 5 a.m.  But in the end, what I really learned is that the time of day had nothing to do with it.

I realized we often talk to and treat others the way we talk to and treat ourselves. And many times, the best resolution was simply being kind to the unkind, encouraging to the discouraged, and occasionally keeping my opinion to myself instead of firing it off recklessly like bullets from a six-shooter at the O.K. Corral.

As your personal, social, and professional relationships become more complex, it is important to remember that you may not know the silent battles faced by those around you, but God does. He sees the big picture. He sees what is driving someone’s anger, sadness and depression. He knows the root cause of why someone becomes irritated over small things.

So when you feel like a victim and solicit God to comfort you by shooting lightning bolts from the sky at your attacker’s head, imagine God responding: “If you think the way they are treating you is bad, you should see how they treat themselves! But I know about battles they’re fighting that you don’t. And that’s why I sent them across your path today; for you to share your love and compassion, not your criticism and opinion.”

I find it ironic that I made about eight dollars an hour at that job but ended up receiving a million-dollar lesson in learning how to summon courtesy; even when it seemed impossible. And those lessons learned during that time have impacted my present business and relationships more than my college degrees ever have.

I will leave you with an important quote I often relied upon during that particular point in my life—something I hope you will take with you as a tool to help deal with your difficult relationships, 5 a.m. drug addicts and those irate customers at Wal-Mart.

“Your life may be the only Bible some people read.”



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

22 thoughts on “Difficult Relationships, 5 A.M. Grumps, and Those Irate Wal-Mart Customers”

  1. I love the part about asking why. While a very few of us have your unique perspective, Chadrick, everyone encounters situations where asking why would be invaluable. Why did the boss decide that? Why did my spouse do that? Why did my kid think that was the right thing to do? Rather than assuming, ask why. It’s so much more beneficial than reacting or guessing. On the flip side, from a leadership standpoint, proactively answering why for your team is an awesome way to go. Don’t leave them guessing. Even if it’s something as simple as explaining why you’re feeling a little down today. Teams watch their leaders closely. Don’t make them guess and wonder why you’re acting a certain way.

  2. Great post and great reminder to start the work week. We are going to constantly encounter these types of people daily. We must remember that however they are attacking us is only a glimpse of how they barrage themselves regularly.

    We must not focus on how it makes us feel, but instead on how they must be feeling in order to lash out this way. If we only focus on our own perception we can never see it for what it is so that it can be addressed and dealt with in order to help that person overcome whatever struggle that is going on in their life.

      1. I wish I could say that I’ve mastered it. I feel like Paul sometimes when he mentions in scripture that the things he should do he doesn’t and the things he shouldn’t do he does. I guess I’m a work in progress!

  3. Profoundly wise words – thank you, Chadrick. One of the attributes of maturity is being able to put oneself in another’s shoes. You have provided a few more tools for that exercise in selflessness.

  4. Yes, “nothing is personal until you make it personal”. Being a resident-assistant at a half-way house, I have found that the people that run it are more difficult to deal with than the residents. I agree that people treat themselves even worse than they treat others, sometimes. People don’t change until they want to.

  5. Weird timing on this one Chris. I was meeting with a customer today and he said: “You must go to church.” I took a deep breath as I was shocked someone would say something like that. I replied “Yes I do. Why would you say that?” “Because of the way you treated me throughout our dealings.” WOW!! I just treat everyone the way I want to be treated. Fits right with this post today. “I realized we often talk to and treat others the way we talk to and treat ourselves.”

  6. This hits home for many of us. We think we are having a bad day but what we really need is some perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in our own problems that we lose sight of the hurting people around us. Sometimes the best way to get out of our pain is to help someone else with theirs!

  7. Ironically, I have been on both sides of that story. I have been that employee working at Wal-mart, getting abuse from some very rude customers. They have learned if they yell and scream loud enough they can get the initial employee over-ruled, see the manager, and get them to give in to their demands. It didn’t matter what the policies were, if they yelled loud enough, they got their way. It didn’t take me long to figure that out and I just saved myself and my manager some time and gave in long before that fight ever escalated that far.

    Also, my husband has Muscular Dystrophy and is in a wheelchair, so we have learned that you don’t know what people’s plights are. There are always other sides to the stories that other people have no clue about.

    Unfortunately, I heard the following story with a mutual acquaintance of mine. She was going in to Wal-mart (lol) with her children. I guess one of her kids got in the way of a lady on cart that you can borrow when you enter the store. The lady told her to move her child. The mother did so and then ended up posting on Facebook about how these fat people would do themselves a favor if they would walk around the store instead of drive on a cart…etc. Pretty sad. I bet if she would have taken the time to talk to the lady she would have a whole different picture. I can guarantee you that the lady would rather walk than have to drive around a scooter due to her ailments. I’m just sayin’….

  8. I found this line of the post very profound: I realized we often talk to and treat others the way we talk to and treat ourselves. Something to seriously give thought to!

  9. What a BEAUTIFUL and POWERFUL post – thank you so much for having Chadrick as your guest. I operated a “jail ministry” for several years – so I know a “little” of what he is saying – but not the 5:00 a.m. stuff! Chadrick – you rock! And I love your testimony – to the people who needed you at that time – and to the world. Thank you for being Jesus to those you meet.

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