Monday Motivator: Save Face (Someone Else’s, That Is)

In her book A Field Guide to Happiness, about her life in Bhutan, Linda Leaming tells of having breakfast with a friend who ordered a three-minute egg. When the egg arrived, it was raw. He called the waiter over:

I’m so sorry. I’ve ordered the wrong thing. Please tell the cook to please put some water in a pan. If it’s not too much trouble, ask him to please let it come to a full boil, and then drop the egg in the water for three minutes. That’s how I want the egg. Please say how sorry I am to have inconvenienced him.

According to Leaming, in Bhutan, “the bottom line is that everybody makes an effort to be civil and help everybody else save face.”

Although there are many wonderful stories in this book, it was this one that stopped me cold and made me think. I contrasted it to what I witness on a daily basis. We spend way too much time protecting our own reputation, not wanting it thought that we could have done something wrong. I don’t think a day goes by without someone blaming someone else for their unhappiness, mistakes, or problems.

I think what we need here is a little Bhutanese philosophy. Think how much calmer life could be if we weren’t always on the prowl trying to save our own self-esteem and snapping at anyone who threatens our fragile sense of self. What if we instead worried about others?

In the case of  Leaming’s friend, he got his egg. The waiter was not  humiliated over something he couldn’t control. And the cook was allowed to maintain his reputation as a cook. Seems like a win/win/win to me.

And breakfast was peaceful for everyone.

We all need more such moments.




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