It's fascinating just how quickly stress can make my attitude toward the world in general one of anger, cynicism and fear. Every slight that I perceive becomes a deliberate injury, or at least an act of pure selfishness on the other person's part. It's all about me and my feelings, and anyone who fails to cater to my needs and expectations is at best an obstacle and at worst an enemy.
It's also fascinating how quickly that attitude (and the negative feelings that flow from it) evaporates when I set "me" aside and consider the perspectives of those "obstacles" - their feelings, their view of the world, their needs and hurts and longings and aspirations. Suddenly they become three-dimensional human beings, and I come a little closer to seeing them the way God sees them as my contempt gives way to compassion. My need to change them evaporates as I get a glimpse of the image of God within them.
"Dying to self" (which seems an apt description of the above process) is exceedingly difficult to do, even for a brief period of time - but within it lies the power to change the world. "What Would Jesus Do?" has become so cliché in evangelical circles that it's a common subject of parody (not altogether undeservedly), yet there is a kernel of validity in the question for those committed to following Jesus' example. When a person dies to self, however, the answer often presents itself before the question can even be asked.
I've got far more room for improvement in this area than I care to admit. Even when I make a genuine effort to place myself within that mindset, it can easily dissolve into an exercise in legalistic thinking, of shoulds and shouldn'ts and formulas. And then I'm right back to trying to be in control of everything.