Learn to love being told you are wrong or being insulted. Every insult is an opportunity. Being insulted offers you an opportunity to practice decency and having a non-response internally. When we are easily upset it is because we are internally unstable and unrefined spiritually. Any defensiveness is a sign of failure. You can’t move forward if you are defensive. If you do not like a certain behavior in others, look within yourself to find the roots of what discomforts you. The conflicts we have with the outside world are often conflicts we have within ourselves. Criticism is no threat to your self-esteem or identity, but rather informs you. You can’t see clearly through defensiveness. You can get to a place where you see clearly; that place is zero defensiveness. Take any concept you believe in deeply and say out loud, and with full conviction, that your dearest belief may be totally flawed. Say, “There is no doubt that I could be wrong.” If you cannot do this, then you do not possess the idea, the idea possesses you. Change will never happen when people lack the ability and courage to see themselves for who they are. An intelligent person is never afraid or ashamed to find errors in their understanding of things. The best practice is to be around people who absolutely disagree. Grace in conflict is a study in love.
“The need to be right is the sign of a vulgar mind.”
— Albert Camus
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
— Lao Tzu
People can only have power over you if you are seeking to have power over others. You are only plagued with stress in moments of common petty conflict because you are arrogant, and believe others are transgressing by having unfavorable thoughts about you. Another person’s thoughts about you are outside of your jurisdiction; you have no authority. You have fantasies about you being right, and about them being wrong, or that there is an injustice or an attack. Sometimes a perceived attack can seem very real, when it is really just your insistence or resistance. When someone is attacking you, they are coming to you for advice. How you react advises them. What advice will you give them? They likely may not know they are seeking advice, but you advise them nonetheless. You can teach an attacker many things through your response. Your boundaries may teach them they are not permitted to treat you disrespectfully. Your permissiveness may teach them to continue hurting you. Your calm and wise response may make sense to them many years later as they grow and heal. Perhaps your example will be steps in their ascension to respect and virtue. Has anyone ever helped you in your ascension to virtue? Perhaps you have been cruel or said something mean and someone responded to your attack with kindness or calm, which later caused you to feel bad or ashamed about your actions. That was someone giving advice to their attacker — you. When you wrestle with foolish people, you tie them tighter into the knot of their ignorance, hate and disrespect. But kindness and openness create an atmosphere where people feel safe to learn and change without judgement. Kindness teaches kindness; self-respect teaches self-respect. This is part of the meaning of “actions speak louder than words” or “leading by example.” You are instructing everyone at every moment with your every action; in this way we are all role models. You are much more than merely a response to external stimuli. By choosing to have a calm response to what seems negative, you bring clarity and balance to your message. People not only learn from what you say, but how you say it. Each reaction we have helps us inspect ourselves by revealing parts of our own nature to ourselves; it is never about others. And remember, when you are speaking to someone else you are really speaking only to yourself. Everything you say to someone else is for your clarity, not theirs — you are presenting yourself, to yourself, for yourself at every moment.
“If the whole world rejected you and you didn’t believe any of your thoughts about it, you’d be completely at peace.”
— Byron Katie
Learning to master inner-calm and non-response to what seems like negativity is a life practice. When you release yourself from the need for approval and control you can stop punishing yourself and others. The fulcrum of resistance is in your mind where you pit yourself against the weight of the external. Release yourself from the struggle of emotional exertion that goes nowhere. No one can make you feel anything; you are completely responsible for how you feel. Until you quit participating in your pain, cooperating in your abuse and engaging in the contest, you will always be a part of other people’s games of torment and inner-suffering. Next time someone comes after you to fight, ask yourself in that moment, “who am I, and who do I choose to be?” Choose calm. Choose serenity. Choose independent confidence and sanity. Once you detach from conflict through non-engagement, you rise to a state of empowering calm awareness, empathy and safety.
“Pause and remember– Do not run from criticism. Criticism can be one of your greatest guides and teachers if you can just learn to not run from it.”
— Jenni Young McGill