A Place of Mutual Respect – The Need to Be Right?

OK, I’ve had enough.  I have been sitting here for the last 2-3 months trying to stay on the sidelines of the “Trump Debate” and have lost the battle.  Well, this is my blog, only read by a handful of people, so I don’t feel too bad about commenting on the fray surrounding the election of Mr. Trump to the presidency.  At least its off my chest ..

I think ifuck trump signt was this image that triggered my response here.  These kids appear to be about the same age as my daughter… A daughter with whom I have had long conversations about honoring the beliefs and values of others.

Not that I was angry or offended, but was actually deeply saddened by this display – presumably supported by their parents.  Is this what we are teaching our kids?  I have seen posts on Facebook (a place I am earnestly trying to avoid) showing piles of poop, threats of violence, friends turned to enemies, and on it goes, because someone was fairly elected (yes, you can debate this too) by our democratic process.

Where I put myself on the scale of left or right, democrat or republican, conservative or liberal is really not relevant.  What I do think is important is that although I disagree with many positions and beliefs of others, I am grounded in a sense of acceptance at best and tolerance at worst.  What others believe in is their business as what I believe in is mine – as long as there is no harm. I like to consider myself as one who quietly goes down the road of life keeping most of my thoughts and values to myself while honoring those with differing views.  Maybe it is my upbringing around the many Amish and Mennonite farms of Lancaster County – quietly going about your daily work among many with radically different beliefs without comment.

So, where does this need to be right come from?  Why must we be right and demonstrate the wrongness of others – at all cost?   I was having this discussion, one of moderation and tolerance, with a good friend of mine after church service today – partially prompted by yet another lesson in who is  right and who is wrong from the pulpit.   We have what I think are probably widely differing views on the best way to run the country or state, potentially different perspectives on right-to-life, legalized marijuana,  petroleum drilling, and the list goes on…  However, we converse from a point of mutual respect and intentional listening.  It is great fun!  Stimulating, thought-provoking and sincere.

Anyway… Long story short.  My friend forwarded a short essay/article written by Jack Kornfield regarding the source of the current fear and anger so prevalent in our society today.  After reading through it, this post seemed to manifest and I thought it worth reprinting below.  I hope I didn’t violate any copyright protocol in reprinting, but don’t think Mr. Kornfield would mind… Here it is:

“Aversion, anger, and hatred are states of mind that strike against experience, pushing it away, rejecting what is presented in the moment. They do not come from without. This insight is a reversal of the ordinary way we perceive life. “Usually,” says Ajahn Chah, “we believe outer problems attack us.” Things are wrong and people misbehave, causing our hatred and suffering to arise. But however painful our experiences may be, they are just painful experiences until we add the response of aversion or hatred. Only then does suffering arise. If we react with hatred and aversion, these qualities become habitual. Like a distorted autoimmune response, our misguided reaction of hatred does not protect us; rather, it becomes the cause of our continued unhappiness.

The Buddha declares, “Enraged with hate, with mind ensnared, humans aim at their own ruin and at the ruin of others.” How do we break this tragic legacy—both in our own lives and in every blood-soaked corner of the globe? Only through a deep understanding of anger, hatred, and aggression. They are universal energies, archetypal forces that cause immense suffering in the world. Their source must be traced in the depths of our human hearts. And then we will discover an amazing truth: that with compassion, with courage and dedicated effort, we, like the Buddha, can meet the aggressive forces of Mara and these energies can be transformed.

Freud and his followers believed the aggressive instincts to be primary. Culture’s “commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself…is really justified by the fact that nothing else runs so strongly counter to original human nature as this.” Later, in the aftermath of World War II, sociobiologists such as Konrad Lorenz and Robert Ardrey hypothesized that our species, like our predecessor apes and many other animals, had necessary and inevitable instincts of territoriality and aggression.Today, evolutionary biology and neuroscience are carefully charting the genetic function and neural mechanisms of aggression.

But the fact that aggression, anger, and aversion are built into our universal heritage is only the starting point in Buddhist psychology. After we learn how to face them directly, to see how they arise and function in our life, we must take a revolutionary step. Through the profound practice of insight, through nonidentification and compassion, we reach below the very synapses and cells and free ourselves from the grasp of these instinctive forces.With dedication, we discover it is possible to do so.
Aversion and anger almost always arise as a direct reaction to a threatening or painful situation. If they are not understood they grow into hatred. As we have seen, pain and loss are undeniable parts of human life. Buddhist texts speak of a mountain of pain. They tell us our tears of grief could fill all four great oceans. When our experience is one of pain, hurt, loss, or frustration, our usual habit is to draw back in aversion or strike out in anger, to blame or run away.

Like pain, fear is the other common predecessor to anger and hate—fear of loss, of hurt, of embarrassment, of shame, of weakness, of not knowing. When fear arises, anger and aversion function as strategies to help us feel safe, to declare our strength and security. In fact, we actually feel insecure and vulnerable, but we cover this fear and vulnerability with anger and aggression. We do this at work, in marriage, on the road, in politics. A fearful situation turns to anger when we can’t admit we are afraid. As the poet Hafiz writes, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I’d rather see you in better living conditions. ” Without insight, we are doomed to live our lives in this cheap room.

Fortunately, we can train ourselves to live with mindfulness, to meet fear and pain with wisdom instead of with the habits of aversion and anger. When a painful or threatening event arises, we can open our eyes to it. When we learn to bear our own pain and face our own fears, we will no longer blame and inflict it on others, neither family members nor other tribes. With mindfulness, instead of reacting, we can respond with spacious clarity, purpose, firmness, and compassion. A wise response includes whatever action, fierce at times, is the most caring toward life, our own and others’.

Imagine a healthy mind as one that is free from entanglement in any level of hatred. At first this might seem impossible, an idealistic attempt to impose decorum on our innately aggressive human nature. But freedom from hatred is not spiritual repression, it is wisdom in the face of pain and fear.
In a healthy response to pain and fear, we establish awareness before it becomes anger. We can train ourselves to notice the gap between the moments of sense experience and the subsequent response. Because of the particle-like nature of consciousness, we can enter the space between instinct and action, between impulse and reaction.To do so we must learn to tolerate our pain and fear. This is not easy. As James Baldwin put it, “Most people discover that when hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with their own pain.”

That’s why we start by paying attention to small things, small pains and disappointments. When I start to get into an argument with my wife, if I pay attention I notice that I usually feel hurt or afraid. If I speak to her angrily, she will become defensive and the argument will grow. But if I’m mindful, I can talk about the hurt or fears instead of being lost in anger and blame.Then my wife becomes interested and concerned. Out of this a different and more honest conversation occurs.”

I am not sure that this explains the current state of affairs that we face in the daily media barrage we endure, but it sure takes a pretty good stab at it.  At least the underlying sense of the piece is compassion and understanding – not being right all the time.   Thanks Linda!

Maybe if we all took a step back, found some comfort in our own sense of values and beliefs and honored those with different ones, we might get through this mess and be a lot better off for it…  Change is never easy and I think our current leader is way wrong in his approach to it, but, aren’t we collectively a little better than the garbage that is being thrown around in the media and on our Facebook pages?  Just my 2 cents…

One thought on “A Place of Mutual Respect – The Need to Be Right?

  1. Mike F

    A good article. It reinforces Quaker beliefs of tolerance and respect. It’s when an individual crosses a line of mutual tolerance and respect, when an individual actively espouses untruth, that a line is crossed in my personal ethos beyond which there is no redemption. I tune out the sometimes vicious social media noise across the spectrum. What that leaves me with is an individual as president for whom I have not a shred of respect. I was open to him until his first press conference, when facts suddenly became mutable.

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