Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wrestling with fear and anger

The Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes, “The Pali word for forgiveness — khama — also means ‘the Earth.’ A mind like the Earth is nonreactive and unperturbed. When you forgive me for harming you, you decide not to retaliate, to seek no revenge.

You don’t have to like me. You simply unburden yourself of the weight of resentment and cut the cycle of retribution that would otherwise keep us ensnarled in an ugly samsaric wrestling match. This is a gift you can give us both, totally on your own, without my having to know or understand what you’ve done.”

This is a hard concept for Westerners to wrap their heads around. We've been brought up to believe that justice is only served when you can exact "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth".

Even if we don't take this concept literally we have the cockeyed notion that by staying angry with someone who has angered or wronged us we exact some cosmic payment from them, when it's exactly the opposite. Our anger and bitterness exact a toll on us, on our level of satisfaction with life, and even with our health.

We've all met people who can't let go of a grudge, a slight, an exchange of heated words. Years later they are still fuming as actively as they were five minutes after the incident happened. They are never free, they constantly rehearse all the ills done them over the years.

I experience this to some extent myself, and have to watch myself when I start leaning in that direction. Because my two primary genetic illnesses are "invisible" without careful examination, I've been on the receiving end of some pretty vicious remarks from physicians who were not well-informed on my disorders.

Because of many negative experiences I now have a real reluctance to go see the doctor, even when I need to do so. I keep thinking about those people who were cruel to me, and I wrestle with fear and anger over the years when I had no treatment, and doctors who called me a sympathy seeker, or a faker. But I'm working on it.

What a relief it is to be able to lay that burden aside. It doesn't mean I believe that what these people did was right, or that I do not still feel hurt when I think of their cruelty. It's just that when I do think of those times I visualize those feelings of resentment and bitterness as anchors chains I'm dragging behind me with each step and I make a conscious decision to let go of the chains of and allow them to drift away, carrying their emotional baggage with them.

I wasn't to blame for what happened, but the past is gone, and it can't be changed. I am now setting myself free from their guilt. This is a gift I'm giving myself.


smm said...

so beautiful is the act of letting go and healing the emotional wounds

Deb said...

Soul balm... :D