“If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life enough sorrow and suffering to disarm all hostility.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One approach that many people find useful in defusing confrontations is summed up by the phrase: “Put yourself into her shoes”. Perhaps the annoying person doesn’t have your mental abilities, or has a self-defeating attitude. Perhaps she is under some invisible stress, or is particularly sensitive to criticism, or envious of something you have. Maybe she feels chronically guilty. Could some of these characteristics be applied to you? It sometimes happens that the people we find the most upsetting are the ones that reflect back to us our own most bothersome flaws.

To make real progress in breaking free from anger, it is important to practice forgiveness. If we step back from the intensity of a particular wrangle and look at our (temporary) opponent with compassion, we can start to see her suffering. It’s my personal policy to assume that everyone I encounter is doing the best they can. There is blindness and unkindness everywhere, but we can alter how we see our situation. Look at the people you’re dealing with through compassionate eyes. If they are not meeting your expectations, forgive them and then perhaps review your expectations.

This is not to say that you have an obligation to repeatedly put yourself into situations where more aggravation than you can tolerate (or work with) comes up regularly. If your job is making you sick, find another job. If your living situation is beyond repair, take a break from it. Take care of yourself first. Just as in an airplane emergency, you must put your own oxygen mask on first and then help the others near you, you can’t improve a bad situation if you’re overwhelmed. First, back away to a safe place from which you can assess what’s happening. Forgive yourself. Forgive everyone involved, and then make some decisions based on how you perceive the overall situation, and perhaps on the advice of a trusted friend.

Forgiveness is patience with understanding. Liberally applied, forgiveness can shift our deepest habits and dislodge our most limiting pre-conceptions.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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