Q&A

A comment was posted on 2011/07/28 by a person describing herself as “new to Buddhism”:
“… Could you discuss how we should handle it when someone close to us doesn’t see things the same? I have compassion but, I’m not sure how to handle relationship problems (romantic) with a man that sees things more in an eye for an eye way.”

I’m glad you asked! Sometimes it’s not obvious how to apply the Buddha’s advice to the problem right in front of us.

The first thing is to examine how you are framing the “problem”. From what you say, it seems you are uncomfortable that you and your partner hold different views. So, recognize that no two people agree on everything; then you can think more clearly about whether this particular disagreement is important. Does it mean that you are uncomfortable with cruelty and your partner is not? That might be a reason to move away from the relationship. But is it simply that he/she feels that if someone pushes you, you should push back? There is a wide variance here, and you might need to sort out where this position falls.

Please consider whether your “relationship problems” stem primarily from this one disagreement, or whether there are other issues that raise alarm bells for you. These things are notoriously tricky, so it might be good to discuss them with a trusted friend.

The Buddha (as far as we know) didn’t tell us how to bring other people around to our own point of view. Rather, he directed our attention to how we might work on our own thinking and behavior so that the results of them would be beneficial to ourselves and others. That has to be our main focus if we are trying to walk the Buddhist path.

It’s important to modify and refine our own behavior, and also to try to move towards people we consider wise and kind, and away from those who (often or generally) seem NOT to support our better qualities. When doing this evaluation, it would be both kind and realistic to look at the whole person, not at just one issue or instance of behavior.

Words of the Buddha:
Monks, a fool is characterized by his/her actions. A wise person is characterized by his/her actions. It is through the activities of one’s life that one’s discernment shines.

A person endowed with three things is to be recognized as a fool. Which three? Bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. A person endowed with these three things is to be recognized as a fool.

A person endowed with three things is to be recognized as a wise person. Which three? Good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, good mental conduct. A person endowed with these three things is to be recognized as a wise person.

Thus, monks, you should train yourselves: ‘We will avoid the three things that, endowed with which, one is to be recognized as a fool. We will undertake & maintain the three things that, endowed with which, one is to be recognized as a wise person.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.
AN 3.2 (Lakkhana Sutta) translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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