When we are ‘reactive’, we reveal unhealed parts of ourself. To act is not the same as to ‘react’. To react is to give away our power. When we react to someone else’s words, actions or behaviors we make a decision to “take on” or absorb their energy. Someone may act hostile toward us and like two dogs posturing for the alpha position we may meet their hostility with our own internal reaction. What does this accomplish other than two hostile states expecting to win the battle for the alpha position? EGO. EGO. EGO. In that moment, we decide to give away our peace of mind.
When someone is lashing out, being a bully, using the legal system for their own personal gain or simply being a jerk what meaning we choose to give their actions is entirely our choice. If we are victims we may say “how dare they”. If we are bullies we may say “I’ll show them”. If we are negative we may say “what a looser”. What would it look like if we were compassionate? We may think something like “they are not doing this to me, they are doing this to themselves. Is there any way for me to be of service?”
I love the quote “I don’t know how much service I’ve done today by merely practicing restraint of pen and tongue”.
How can we benefit from having such people in our life? Perhaps they are teachers. They are not bound by the same rules as our friends. They may not care what we think and may tell us those things others think but are too afraid to tell us.
“Don’t flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. Except in cases of necessity, which are rare, leave your friend to learn unpleasant things from his enemies; they are ready enough to tell them.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Sometimes we are the ones to illicit a reaction in someone else. Just because we illicit a ‘hostile’ reaction does not necessarily mean we did any wrong. When you stand for justice others may rail against it. Think of great leaders who spoke out against injustice and attracted many enemies.
“A man with no enemies is a man with no character.” – Paul Neman.
The point is don’t take their reaction personally. If you stand for justice and they revolt. Stand for justice anyway. Don’t cower under the pressure. Don’t debase your own message with hostility and attack. Stand firm in your conviction but stand firm in love; not anger.
There are some people who mean to do us harm. Their motive may be to intentionally and maliciously harm us. However, that does not mean we have to take it personally. We can recognize what state a person must be in to wish another harm. We can imagine they are like this in other areas of their life because this reveals more about who they are than it does about who we are.
But our own internal and external reaction to their vitriol is a reflection of who we are. What if we recognize the hazard and danger in participating in their insane state and chose not to?
We can maintain a sane state. We can know peace. We can move our focus back into the next solution to move our life forward. They can bully, scream, rant, feel justified, expend energy focusing on us all they want. They may be able to do some damage. They may be able to grab our attention long enough to focus on their demands. Then when we’ve responded, without reacting, we can chose to once again move forward and put the focus back on our peace of mind.
So in the larger view are they not really attention seekers? Is not the root cause of their temper tantrum an internal wounded child that screams “pay attention to me.” They want attention. They use all forms of sophisticated ruses; justified anger; the principal of the matter; a feeling of self righteousness.
In the end they are really saying “I am hurting and I want you to notice.”
Now flip this. When we ‘react’ are we not really saying “pay attention to me”!
Maybe we lash out because we are too afraid to say “I hurt. I am scared. I am overwhelmed. I feel guilty. I feel lost.” When we learn how to take ownership of our own state, to be vulnerable and ask for what we need in healthy ways then we will find our ‘reactions’ change dramatically.
Do we want to hurt someone that is hurting? Instead we can practice love and tolerance. We don’t have to interact with someone to practice these principles. We can walk away or stick to the facts to hold firm in our power or sometimes we are a lucky enough to be an instrument of peace and help them discharge those emotions in a productive way.
Would you agree the planet needs more people committed to love and tolerance? It’s too easy to say “F*(K you”. It’s much more rewarding to say “I hope for you healing”. If someone is healed they are less likely to cause more harm. Perhaps this is what they meant by praying for your enemy”.
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” – Mahatma Gandhi.