Do you know that there are trees out there in the Colorado wilderness that have a lovely, sweet aroma to them if you get up close and take a whiff? Who knew? These trees, called Ponderosa Pines, are easily found throughout our part of the country. The funny thing is that when each person takes that unexpected, yet magical whiff of the sweetness – they smell something different. Most accounts have smell testers of the Ponderosa Pine reporting either ‘vanilla’ or ‘butterscotch’ as the scent they detected. (I am one of the butterscotch smellers.) How can two people smell the exact same thing and decide they think they smell something different?
The old ‘two Jews, three opinions’ aphorism comes to mind. Problem with this solution to the vanilla-butterscotch question is the (a) the smell testers of these trees are not all Jews and (b) it’s not like its the great debate of whether one prefers Latkes or Hamentachen this is a matter of science, not opinion.
In this time period – in which we speak of and consider the nature of sin and forgiveness – the vanilla or butterscotch dilemma seems to make a lot of sense. I do not think there is research that lists those things that cause us to make others angry at us or that cause to get angry at others. If such research existed, the butterscotch/vanilla quandary might be at the heart of MOST of the anger that is happening between loved ones. Two people participate in the exact same event/conversation/exchange … and yet they each experience it differently. One ‘smells’ vanilla and ‘one’ smells butterscotch. Each person begins to react to that exchange depending on how they heard, felt and process that exchange … and, well, you know the rest of the story.
Knowing this tidbit about differing perceptions may make it easier moving forward entering into these quagmires of perception with loved ones (assuming we can keep our emotions in balance and remember it). Knowing this tidbit, however, may not make it easier to go back and review the current hurts and wounds from past exchanges and do the work of teshuvah. The ‘vanilla’ or ‘butterscotch’ smelling cat is well out of the bag – complete with all of the hurtful things said and felt. It hits at the heart of any successful relationship, to remember that no matter what you think you ‘smell’, there is an excellent chance that the other is ‘smelling’ something else