“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink…
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
– Paul of Tarsus, in letter to the Romans, The Bible
“You will get beauty from ashes”
– Hebrew Scripture
Seriously, when I read these ancient texts, and there are many like it, my first thought is, “That is ridiculous!” How can you love and bless and carry on like nothing is wrong in a world that isn’t the way it is supposed to be and full of people not doing what they are supposed to do?
“But that is not how it’s SUPPOSED TO BE!” came crashing through my skull as I stood there with a rose in front of the hairy man in his boxers. He had just answered the door in response to my intense knocking. “Uuuuuh, is Stacy there?”, I tentatively asked, praying to God he’d say, “Oh! You are looking for my sister, Stacy! Oh yea! She has been talking about you all day long!” Instead my fears were getting confirmed by the hairy man in his boxers saying, “Oh, yea. She’s in the shower. Can I help you?”
So there I stood with my rose, swimming in the shock of what looked like the end of a perfectly beautiful fantasy that I had created. Stacy had been my girlfriend [her name is has been changed for her protection ;)]. I was not the best boyfriend in the world. My downfalls were not limited to trying to control her life and making her what I wanted her to be, regardless of what she wanted. She got noticeably unhappy by the end of six months of this. I picked up on it and decided I would teach her a lesson and break up with her. I figured she would shape up and come running back to me after I took away my precious presence from her life. This would also help her to realize how thankful she should be to have such a wonderful man, such as myself as a boyfriend. Well, I’ll cut out a chunk of this miserable story, mostly of me being depressed, and return to me still standing there, awkward and speechless.
“So, you want me to tell her you are here? … Who are you?”, said the hairy man in the boxers that stood in Stacy’s doorway.
“Oh… I’m…. uh…No. … uuuummm… just give her … this,” I hand out my rose, “Will you?”… That’s right. In case you missed it, I gave the guy that got the girl that I wanted a rose. I gave him a rose and then walked away. Not a proud moment of my life.
The next six months after that event I was so depressed I remember spending whole afternoons laying on the floor of the little hole of a studio I lived in, unable to face the world. I tormented myself with a thousand variations of, “This is not how it is supposed to be!”
This may be a hard pill to swallow, so brace yourself. Any time we are not at peace, depressed or not acting on love (fearful, anxious, frustrated, angry, etc) it is due to our commitment to a story that something is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE a certain way.
My disappointment from that story came from comparing the life that was unfolding in front of me (reality) with the life I had made up in my mind (fantasy). My fantasy life was exciting. It was so great I was convinced everyone, including Stacy, would obviously be on board. The hairy man in the boxers showed me otherwise. His un-manscaped presence was not preferable at all! At that time, I decided to resist reality and hold on to my fantasy. This thinking was birthed from my pain and suffering. I really thought this was best. But this is not how you create the life you would prefer. This is not how you see the abundance that the great teachers have promised.
I love what the author of the international best seller Loving What Is, Byon Katie says. “How do I know that the wind should be blowing? Because it is… Whenever I argue with reality I lose, but only 100% of the time.” I was arguing with the reality that was Stacy moving on with the follicly blessed dude. In resisting this reality, the pain of not getting what I wanted turned into sorrow and depression.
Spiritual teacher, speaker and writer Eckhart Tolle said in his work A NEW EARTH, “If there is nothing you can do, face what is and say, “Well, right now, this is how it is. I can either accept it, or make myself miserable… The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about the situation. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is.” This is a truth that has echoed across cultures and across millennia.
Epictetus in his Enchiridion: “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
Shakespeare in Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning: “…Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
At this point you be tempted to challenge this and come up with an experience that really shouldn’t have happened. What about break ups, betrayals or even the horrific choices of rape, molestation and murder? That definitely should not have happened, right?!
Yes. Those events cause much pain and sorrow. Acts of hate and fear are never justified. My heart goes out for those of you who have gone through such experiences. My own trauma pales in comparison to many of you.
When I was around 8 years old, the teenage girl baby-sitting me told me she wanted to show me something fun if I promised to keep it a secret. I thought that was fair and agreed. I don’t recall how many times she watched me, but she regularly introduced me to a number of sexual acts when my parents where gone. In the years that followed I carried around a heavy burden of big secret. I had made up that telling my mom would be too painful for her, so I kept myself all alone with my guilt and shame. My thinking at the time left me responsible for these events. I was stuck all alone with this painful secret. For fear of getting too close to speaking ‘the unspeakable” truth, I ended up shutting down any topic that might possibly get back to that ugly truth. My relationship with my mom and I felt distant and kept me even more alone with shame.
How does a person elevate in a world in which each of us has been tormented in some way through choices of another? When we come to the conclusion, “my life is not the way it is supposed to be”, it is from reasoning based in fear. Fear of us moving on and letting go of the past. I was fearful of how my mom would react if I told her. I had even made up that I would be completely rejected and she wouldn’t love me any more. This is quite a long cry from the reality of a little kid getting taken advantage.
Sometimes its the fear of not getting what we think we need, so we just take it from someone else, unaware or apathetic to the damage that is done. It’s important to see that each of us has been tormented and been the tormentor in some way through similar acts fueled by fear. This dynamic often happens without awareness. On some level we all have been hurt and have hurt others. My mom reached out to me a thousand times and cared for me only to be rewarded with a distant son. I was hurt and unknowingly I passed on the hurt. So how can we move forward and choose the optimum life in spite of the horrors that happened or that we committed?
We can wish something were different. We can replay what we should have done a thousand times. In my six months of depression from loosing Stacey, I know I hit the replay button in my mind 10,000 times! But does anything change about that past event? Even if you find more and more reasons why it should not have happened? Does anything change when you reject yet another person for fear of getting hurt again?
Maybe you ask, “How can you say that reality is good? What about war, rape, poverty, violence, and child abuse? Are you condoning them?”
Byron Katie answers this question too in her book. “How could I condone them? I simply notice that if I believe they shouldn’t exist when they do exist, I suffer. Can I just end the war in me? Can I stop raping myself and others with my abusive thoughts and actions? If not, I’m continuing in myself the very thing I want to end in the world. I start with ending my own suffering, my own war. This is a life’s work.”
There is a freeing power in accepting the events, people and the choices of your past. And I mean accepting everything fully. Accepting everything that happened REALLY WAS the way it was SUPPOSED TO BE. If that is true, the hairy man in boxers was supposed to answer that door and take my rose. The evidence that I have that this is true is that it happened.