A few years ago I was in Jordan on an excursion through the Middle East. I wanted to go to Pakistan, but when I got to the Pakistani embassy in Jordan, an official ordered me to go to the American embassy, miles away, saying, “You have to get a piece of paper from your government vouching for you. That’s the only way the government of Pakistan wifi even consider your request.”
I went to the American embassy in Jordan and stood in line there all day. Finally, when it was my turn, I told the gentleman why I was there. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “There’s no such thing as an international voucher for people in the United States. That’s what a passport does. It says the American government is vouching for you, declaring you worthy and reliable to travel abroad.”
He began to speak more quietly. “He’s just messing with you,” he said, of the government official at the other agency. “Sometimes they like to play games with people, show them how much power they really have.”
I went back to the Pakistani embassy. When I returned, there was an elderly Muslim man sitting in the waiting room. He wore a turban. His head was bowed. He was reciting the Koran and rubbing his string of prayer beads.
He helped set the tone and reminded me of what I needed to do: calm down, be peaceful, stop resisting, and harmonize with the situation. It didn’t matter if the visa man was wrong and I was right. He had the power. I needed to go to him. I sat quietly waiting for my turn. When I went up to the counter, I deliberately acknowledged his point of view. Then I gently explained that I didn’t get the piece of paper he asked for from the American embassy, because that paper didn’t exist. I explained it was probably the only time in my life I’d be in this area of the world. I pointed to the poster on the wall. ‘The Himalayas are so beautiful there,” I said. “If I don’t go now, I don’t know that I ever will. You have the power to say yes or no. And I have no choice but to go along with whatever you say. It’s in your hands.”
He told me to go sit down. I did. Five minutes later, he called me back to the stand. “Here,” he said, handing me my passport. “Enjoy your visit to Pakistan.”
We have a right to get as mad as we want, but sometimes harmonizing can achieve so much more than yelling in indig nation or even fighting back. Next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re being manipulated, let go of your resistance and practice harmony instead.
God, teach me the power of moving gently, with humility and respect, through the world.