I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind. I should not be ungrateful to these teachers – Khalil Gibran
I often write about the need to redefine success and failure. I fail (learn) regularly and, following a challenging few weeks, I wanted to share with you some of my reflections.
The ego – the part of ourselves always looking to protect itself – can only pretend to be compassionate. Deep down it wants something in return, such as admiration or submission. But when you take time to look at people in the light of compassion, everything can change. Powerful forces come into play when you stop and ask, “What do I really know about this person? I may see them everyday, but do I know what makes them cry, what their home situation is?” It’s as simple as pausing before you speak and asking yourself ‘is it true, is it kind, is it necessary’. If you can accept that people are doing the best they can from their level of consciousness, you no longer need to judge.
Generally speaking, people lead lives that seem stable and purposeful, but deep down they often feel insecure and anxious. The opposite of insecurity is strength. But what does it mean to be strong?
Looking around, we can see the strength of an authority figure like a boss who dominates others. With or without consent, they take charge and make it clear that only their will, their desires, and their emotions are important. This is a sad distortion of true strength. Society rewards this distorted strength by giving some people power, and millions of others seem happy to give away their power to those who appear strong. All of this comes about because we haven’t learnt to be strong inside ourselves. Out of insecurity, we build defences to keep threats away and defences – like castle walls, we enclose a small, protected area while shutting out the great wide world.
It takes a shift in our awareness to discover that love, peace and lack of conflict exist inside us and have the power to change any situation. From an ego perspective, we are just one person – an isolated speck standing against immense outside forces. In this view, the outside world seems to have all the power. This is why the world’s wisdom traditions came into existence to counter what our five senses tell us and point the way inward.
In practical terms, becoming strong is like being a puppy that only feels safe by the side of its mother. Its curiosity lures it to the outside world. At first, the puppy rushes back to its mother’s side, but over time it stands on its own and in its own right. It has no more desire to be protected by another. The self behaves the same way. It starts out needing the illusion of protection by clinging to externals like money, status, the bonds of relationships, developing a fit body. These are good things on their own but they aren’t good if they reinforce the attitude of us versus them. When your inner strength gets activated, you realise there was never you against the world.
Forgiveness does not mean you condone a behaviour or make a wrong into a right. It simply means you give yourself permission to accept and release that what was done. The truth is, if you are holding onto a grudge, that grudge is also holding onto you. Not forgiving someone doesn’t give you power – it actually takes your power. Forgiveness is not something you do for the person who wronged you; it’s something you do for yourself. Like me, it might be time for you to let go.