No blame. No reasoning. No argument. Just understanding. According to Thich Nhat Hanh this leads to understanding. This sounds so simple. Do we pause in the midst of a heated discussion to open our heart to what the other person is saying? Do not most of us wish to be heard, to be understood, to have our point of view validated? Are we humble or does pride flare up and tell us we are right?
If our desire truly is peace and understanding then how can we expect to be right, to be validated and to be agreed with? This is another one of those conflicts. I want to be thin. I want to eat this cupcake. Don’t most of us secretly think I want to be right, I want to be heard, I want to be glorified for my brilliance and I want you to be so happy that you can see my greatness?
So how do we break out of this pattern? Do we want to change? Do we like being right so much that the work required to change is too much work? We have to answer some questions first and many of us will stop reading now. Work on me, change me, look at my part, um no thanks. And that is fine. Our life will just roll on the way it has been. Maybe we are good with that. However……
Suffering can be a powerful catalysts for change. Sometimes the worst events in our life, the ones that cause the most suffering, can be our greatest teachers. They humble us. They force us to look at things we ordinarily would avoid. They stretch us. Now these events can also make us bitter, hardened and bring us to a darker place. The choice is always ours. Do we choose to grow from this experience? Will we work on ourselves? Will we clean up our side of the street? Do we let it harden us? Do we believe we are right and they are wrong? Do we believe life is unfair and this is terrible? Many of us stay stuck in the past. We are unable to let go of what was, embrace what is and move forward.
“I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday.” Gary Champan.
So why do we hang onto the past? Can we change the past? Does reliving past events feel good? Are we happy when we drift into morbid reflection? Does the drama give us energy or joy? We touched on the pathways of the brain and why it’s so easy to relapse. We also learned the mind will hang onto familiar pain rather than unfamiliar joy. Our pain is a place we know.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” – Ann Landers.
Everything may or may not happen for a reason, but everything that happens has the meaning we choose to give it.
Questions to live in – Tools for Moving Forward
1. Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy? If the answer is happiness then can we swallow our pride and let the other person be right? We can say you may be right. They may hear they are right. Either way the upheaval is resolved.
2. How important is this? Some of us will fight just as hard over a small point like ‘did they say tomato or potato’? These petty fights cost us just as much as the big whoppers. In the middle of silly debates we can say I want to get along more than I want to hash this out.
3. What is my part? This requires great humility. I asked my daughter not to climb on my cabinet. She did it anyway. The handle broke. I was furious and yelled at her. At the time I felt justified for yelling at her. She cowered in fear and burst out in tears. Later I felt bad. My desire is to be close to my children. My desire is to lead by example. So I apologized to her for yelling. I told her that it was not respectful and there are more creative ways to deal with conflict. I said those magical words “I was wrong”. Every remember being a kid and wishing so much your parents would say that? Ever get it? She beamed. The old tapes want to lecture, to remind her every time remember when I said this and you did that. This is boring and uncreative and frankly I got tired of hearing my own lectures. This topic could be a series. Perhaps more on this another time.
4. What am I willing to change about me? This is tough work. Someone borrowed money and did not pay it back. It was money we could not spare and this person knew that. We already had intense stress going on and this only added to it. To make matters worse they developed a resentment against me and felt they had been treated poorly. They were wrong and I was right and my friends agreed with me. Then how come I was not at peace? So I asked the question what was my part? In this particular situation it was having expectations. This is not the first time this had happened to me and I was told don’t give money you are not prepared to loose. I was also told to check my motives. Is the motive to look like the big shot? Is it to be seen as a savior? Is it greed? So my part was doing something with an expectation.
5. Am I willing to let go and move forward? I’ve been on both ends of the ‘lending game’ and the solution is the same. Look at our part, repair what we are responsible for, change what we have control over and let go of the rest. It is none of our business what other people think of us! Forgiveness is not for the other person it’s a gift we give ourselves. When we forgive someone they no longer have power in our life, we are no longer mad at them, we no longer allow them to occupy space in our minds. We have moved on. Some offenses are harder to forgive, but in the end, what is the benefit to us if we hold onto anger? How does it help the quality of our life to be mad at someone else? How does our rage harm them?
We didn’t get a chance to cover the 5 love languages today. We will get to it because it’s a good guide to pick the right message for the audience so our efforts are recognized.