Enter your Username and Password to log in below.
Is it really appropriate to be kind to people who are clearly being unkind to me?
First, I am grateful for this opportunity to work with you Sharon, even if just "on-line". I have greatly benefited from your dharma talks! I hope to one day hear you in person.
Metta has always been difficult for me. I can usually not practice it on my own, but need to listen to it guided; when I am in a group, and someone recites the lovingkindness prayer, there are times when it just doesn't "sink in" for lovingkindness towards myself--it does sometimes work when I think of "some" others, but not the really tricky people in my life.
But listening to your practice this time, I connected with compassion towards myself, and why, probably because of the many difficult periods of my life, I find this absent in my life. Something "budged" for me, as it sometimes does since I started the practice. Just a movement of feeling.
The larger question for me as regards others is where our unkindness or lack of compassion comes from. Is it fear of looking closely at the suffering of others? At trying to face someone else's bad behavior or misery or anger? I find that difficult, and over the years, there are times when I feel like I have grown a second or third skin. I used to represent abused kids, and perhaps because there was so much suffering, one of the consequences is that feeling compassion can sometimes be draining. And I live in a country where the reputation of people is brusque, even rude--I have come to understand why many act that way, and have even adopted the national "thick skin". Perhaps this results in part from the knowlege that our sons and daughters face peril at a young age, and if we are "soft" for them, or towards our "enemies" life will become even more difficult. If lovingkindness was a practice of all parties to a conflict, wouldn't things be easier!
I indeed often feel like what we call here a "fryar", someone who is taken advantage of, if I am in an encounter, and don't put up my wall, snap back. But I notice that when I meet hostility or anger without reacting, I have that same feeling when I try to understand why it is essential to have compassion for myself--the air moves a bit, it calms, the negative "partner" I might be dancing with slows down...
Perhaps we need to look on the other side of what compassion and lovingkindness do--see more results of genuine metta. Perhaps not the best way to look at things, to expect something in return. But a calmed conflict with someone definitely would move our engagements to a more liveable plain.
Shalom to all, Ellen from Jerusalem
I think nonviolent and effective, compassionate responses to abusive people have to be trained and practiced. They don't come naturally to anyone. There's a great book by a woman named Melanie Snyder called "Grace goes to prison," one of many books from the Quaker tradition about how to respond to violence--verbal or physical--in skillful ways. There's also Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication teachings. In a lot of cities you can go to workshops to learn these things. As Sharon says in the audio interview, "love is an ability."
I agree with Monty that retreating or being present without directly engaging with someone's behaviors can be a kindness. I find that i can be directing energy while being aware of the breath and I am less provoked to respond.
this is Monty McKeever, I'm a recent addition to the Tricycle editorial staff and the moderator of this thread,
thank you for all your comments.
In terms of the original question, I notice that I have begun to question my own idea of what exactly kindness looks like. At first I was thinking of kindness as a sort of general sense of friendliness and an overall willingness to be helpful and supportive. This general light hearted "just be nice" feeling makes sense to me when I am thinking of friends, loved ones, convivial acquaintances, and strangers, but when I start to think about people who are unkind, rude, and even aggressive and threatening, then I realize that my idea of kindness may in fact be limited. In many cases, opening my heart to the person acting unkindly has worked, very much like what was described in amdew1222's wise words. But then, when thinking about some of the more extreme experiences I've had with people's cruelty and aggression, I worry that there are in fact some people who can smell "idiot compassion" or fear-based kindness a mile away. Some of these people even take on the role of predator and victimizer. In these cases, self preservation takes priority for me and the absolute kindest thing I have to offer at that moment is to simply retreat from the situation. Can that be considered kindness? I think maybe it can. I'm being kind in not letting the person, in their confusion, play out the harmful actions.
The four different karmic actions of 'magnitizing, enriching, pacifying, and destroying' come to mind for me, and that all four can be manifestations of compassion.
You realy can't change people, it's just too hard. All you can do is see them clearly and deal with them as they are.
My sister-in-law has lashed out and attacked me for not agreeing with her political views. She expressed her views and then I expressed mine and backed my views up with facts and opinion. She became very hostile and lashed out at me and attacked me personally. I haven't been comfortable around her since nor have I been kind. She has lashed out at the women in my family like my mother and sisters. My family says she jealous and insecure, yet how am I to deal with her? I feel I need to protect myself against her personal attacks. She never apologized and acts as if things should be normal between us. I never confronted her about her attack, I just did not give her a response. What to do?
Sometimes when I have gone out of my way to be kind or tolerant, I get taken advantage of. I lose trust and wish I'd never gone out of my way. Also, sometimes neurotic attachments are proposed that feel unhealthy and manipulative. As if the other person had "found a sucker." Trungpa Rinpoche talks about "idiot compassion." Yet I always feel guilty if I back away from such entanglements. Especially if they are family or neighbors.
i also fear i do the same thing to others. Selfish and ungrateful moi
Opening your heart to someone dose not mean being their patsy. I felt the same way,but I find when you respond to people with kindness,they open there hearts and parts of there minds to you that they probably would not have otherwise.
This will give YOU the advantage, you can see there true colors. A selfish person, when he opens himself up to you, revels himself to you as a selfish person. You can then deal with him as he is.
Thanks. The fly in the ointment is the growing realization of just how selfish I am.
Having just completed major family events on both my and my partner's sides of our family, I felt my greatest joys came from being open to persons I had never made real attempts with before. As I opened my heart to them, joy did grow within me. On the flights home, these events counted as "best moments." I saw how kindness could grow where it seemed there was hostility before. Energy grew plastic before our eyes, at many tables, in many cars, even cleaning out the closets of the dead.
An online store dedicated to inspiring Buddha statues, art, jewelry, malas and more.
Buddhist Psychotherapy Collective
Contemplative psychotherapy for individuals, couples, and groups in New York City.
Buddhapath and Eleven Directions
In the Footsteps of the Buddha pilgrimages with Shantum Seth across India and South Asia. Other spiritual journeys that transform. Mindful travel.
Himalayan High Treks' Dharma Journeys Pilgrimages
Pilgrimages to sacred Buddhist sites led by experienced Dharma teachers. Includes daily teachings and group meditation sessions. A local English–speaking guide accompanies and assists.
View all sponsors