A lesson on wrong view and intention

A memorable illustration of how wrong view and wrong intention work together came to me earlier this week. I’m telling this story, even though it’s embarrassing, because it taught me a useful lesson.

It started with a credit card bill on which a mysterious line item appeared. It wasn’t clear what it was for, and I had no receipt to match with it. My mind leapt to the conclusion that it was probably one of those infernal camera-captured speeding tickets, which are pretty common in Brisbane. I made four frustrating phone calls before speaking with a human in the correct office. I was not polite (though I did not swear) and I was not satisfied at the end of the call.

My next move was to follow the instructions I’d received to lodge a complaint/challenge. During that process, I checked the date of the infringement (which I had gotten from the human on the phone), and suddenly all was clear and I was embarrassed. It wasn’t a speeding ticket at all, but a parking ticket, which I now remembered. I also realized (too late) that it showed up on my credit card bill because I had already paid it!

What do we do when we discover that we’ve made a wrong assumption and it has caused us to behave in a way we are ashamed of? We could bury it and forget it, but I chose to look at it to find the lesson in it. Mistake #1 was leaping to the conclusion that the unknown charge was for a speeding ticket. Mistake #2 was not questioning this assumption. This is a key point: I didn’t notice that I’d made an assumption with insufficient evidence. My mood was immediately up in the “annoyed” zone and I wasn’t thinking straight.

This is the nature of assumptions – we don’t know when we’re making them.

I wished then that I could phone back the helpful human and apologize, but it would have been impossible to find him. All I could do was to reflect on my behavior and confess it to a friend, with the intention to be more careful about leaping to conclusions in the future. When frustration rises, it’s a warning sign that a mistake may be right around the corner.

The wrong view was the assumption that I knew what something was when I didn’t. The wrong intention was taking it out on a human being, a paid flak-catcher. And now I’ve only confirmed his (probable) opinion that people who phone there are not nice, and possibly also stupid. Sigh. I intend to try to remember the conditions that caused the arising of this wrongly intended action, and attempt to stop their momentum in the future.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
This entry was posted in Anger, Causes and results, The 8-fold path. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A lesson on wrong view and intention

  1. Catherine B says:

    How blind we are when trapped in emotions. In the book, “Destructive Emotions” ed. by Daniel Goleman, UCSF psychologist Paul Ekman says: “One of the reasons we have so much difficulty once we become emotional is that the emotion itself enslaves us.” That’s a hard message to swallow, yet when we reflect honestly on our experience, we know it is true. Bravo, Lynn, for describing this phenomenon of experience so clearly and honestly. We’ve all been there!

  2. Anonymous says:

    How many times have I done something very similar! Thank you for reminding us..

  3. Yeshe says:

    An excellent example of how we make assumptions. Thank you so much for sharing.

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