Sunday, April 26, 2015

I want happiness...

There's a story almost everyone has heard or read, but just in case you are one of those few who hasn't, I'll repeat it. It's a good story and bears repeating.

Two monks were traveling, carrying a message from their monastery in the mountains to one farther down in the hills. All morning long they trudged through heavy rain, each lost in contemplation. About noon they came to a place where the path crossed a stream, but the bridge had been washed away by a torrent of water rushing down the mountainside. A young woman stood by anxiously, clutching her cloak around her. 

"Kind sirs," she cried. "I cannot cross unaided. Please help me!" 

The elder monk nodded, crouched down so the young woman could climb on his back and once she was clinging to his neck he carefully felt his way through the stones and rushing water. Once he was on the other side he bent down, the young woman slid off, bowed and thanked him, and the three went their separate ways.

The two monks had walked for several miles further when suddenly the younger monk said angrily, "I can't believe you carried that woman across that water! You know we are strictly forbidden to touch women!" 

The elderly monk replied, "I put her down as soon as we crossed the water. I can't believe that two hours later you are still carrying her."  

Now, what brought this story to mind? There is someone who was a good friend for over ten years. Several years ago a third person told my friend that I'd said something very unkind about him. It was completely untrue - and yet when I told him that he chose to believe the other person, and even after several years he won't let it go. He still manages to slip sarcastic little jabs into the conversation about it every chance he gets, and he did it again today. 

So how do you handle this ongoing resentment from someone who was a trusted friend for years?  He won't talk about it with me so that we can resolve the problem, instead the passive aggressive sniping just goes on and on.  I know he's miserable but there's nothing I can do to help him. This last six or eight months I've just chosen to ignore his remarks, but that hasn't helped either. From my many years of friendship with him I know he is still bitter about perceived slights which occurred in his childhood, and this is a man in his 50s. He is hypersensitive and hypercritical, which isn't a good combination for a happy life. 

Of course we all wrestle with doing what we wish we hadn't done, once we think about it for half an hour or more. Funny how hindsight is a great importer of wisdom. And we all see what we dismiss as "quirks" in ourselves as character flaws in others. If we are constantly at odds with our fellow man the best antidote is to take responsibility for our own inner peace.  

While this doesn't apply to war zones and those living in extreme stress for most of us there are two opponents to inner peace;

1) Angry temper; my judgement that you have done something wrong, which makes me angry at you, and may lead me to strike out at you. 

2) Fearful temper; my judgement that I have done something wrong, which makes me feel fearful, guilty, embarrassed, resentful, i.e. angry with myself. I may try to hide my mistake, or blame it on someone else, because I can't bear the idea of being seen as wrong or guilty. 

The peace you gain by controlling your temper cannot be taken from you, it is within you. The best part of all this is that, those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.  

1 comment:

Linda P. said...

My family specialized in the passive-aggressive. Anger masqueraded as a joke with a bite, with the bite never acknowledged. "It was just a joke!" was said with widened eyes and lifted shoulders, with mock surprise that you would react. Nothing could be resolved because no one admitted to feeling any negative emotion. I couldn't change that, but I could resolve to find ways to communicate my emotions in as healthy a manner as possible. That's all you can do, isn't it, and then you have to decide if you can weather the unexpected barbs of someone who hasn't yet learned to take that responsibility.