I think it’s important to understand “hostile people” because you’re likely to run into them from time to time. Hostile people are deeply hurt; they didn’t just wake up one morning and think, “Life sucks and people suck, and you can’t trust anyone.” They didn’t decide they’d focus on every awful thing everyone else is doing or has done. They’re in a world of pain and they’re lashing out. That doesn’t make it easy to deal with if you’re on the receiving end of rage or distrust or judgment you don’t feel you deserve, but at least it makes it less personal, and somewhat understandable.
If a person is clinging to anger, blame or righteousness, there’s no point in engaging, you’ll just get burned. If someone has his fists clenched and dukes up, his mind is closed and his heart is, too. You can approach with your arms open and offer love, but you’ll probably just get punched in the gut, because it takes a long time to build walls like that. It takes a lot of disappointment, heartbreak and despair to convince a person that he’s got to enter the world with armor. If you get caught in the crossfire of someone else’s pain, the saying, “consider the source” is extremely helpful.
When there’s no room for communication, there’s really no hope. You cannot make a person loosen her grip. Some people hold onto their rage like a shield, because the thought of being vulnerable, of listening to another point of view, is terrifying. It means they have to put the weapons down for a minute, and perhaps they’ve been taught that’s when people go for their jugular, or they’re clinging to their story because that’s all they’ve got, and if they let it go they won’t know themselves anymore, they won’t know where to turn. You really never know what someone’s been through. An inability to forgive other people’s mistakes reflects an inability to forgive our own. Bitterness is like a virus. If it’s fed long enough, it overtakes the whole system. When we’re bitter and enraged and pointing fingers at other people as if they’re to blame, we’ve given up our own power. No one can make you feel anything unless you let them. There’s also the issue of spending lots of time and energy concerning yourself with another person’s path. Ramana Maharshi on this, “Let each one mind his business. All will be well.” We all have plenty of work to do keeping our own side of the street clean.
Harsh judgment, an attempt to create a lot of distance between ourselves and the “terrible mistakes” of other people usually indicates we’re recognizing something within us that we find unacceptable or even detestable, some weakness or predisposition, some part of us that recognizes the urge, and wants to shove it as far away as possible. Otherwise why spend so much time thinking and talking about how awful it is? Everyone makes mistakes, some bigger than others; no one shows up as his highest self in every moment. We can all look back on certain choices and wish we had them to do over again. Compassion is the thing, for yourself, and for others. Sometimes people have a lapse in judgment because there are incredibly painful circumstances in their lives that we know nothing about. Does that excuse behavior that may be irresponsible or unintentionally hurtful? Definitely not, but no one is here to be the morality police. You do your own work, and leave people to do theirs. You may decide for your own well-being you just can’t have certain people in your life, and that is your right. Nonetheless, mistakes are how we grow. If you inadvertently hurt someone, you do whatever you can to make it right. You own it and apologize, and hope for forgiveness. If it doesn’t come, at a certain point you have to forgive yourself.
Whatever you feed, grows. If you spend a lot of your energy focusing on everything that’s wrong with people and wrong with the world, you’re feeding yourself a diet of anger and despair. That stuff will harden you, and we aren’t here to be hard. Righteousness does not make a fabulous bedfellow, and whatever you’ve got on the inside is what you’ll spread wherever you go. What you feed yourself inevitably becomes your contribution. For many years now, my mantra has been, “Keep your eyes on your own paper, and pay attention to what you’re doing.” Not that I’m wearing blinders, I just try not to allow myself to get caught up in other people’s dramas. It’s perfectly natural to me that people are going to screw up from time to time, and sometimes badly. Everyone has to do her own work. I’ve found that the more I feed love, the happier I am, and the more I’m able to spread it. Plus, it tastes a lot better than bitterness.
Sending you love,
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