BAD IDEA CORRECTING EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING

BAL THANEDAR

I meet a person and all is well. I am attached to this person’s personality, intellect, sense of humor – some combination of all these traits. Initially, I not only approve my differences with this person, but also appreciate them. I might have been attracted to this person, in part, because of how different I am; how different  my opinions, preferences, tastes and priorities are. However, after a while, I begin to notice little quirks about this person that I feel could be improved upon. I try to bring this to the person’s attention by saying,

‘You know, you sure have a tendency to be late’ or ‘I have noticed you do not read very much’. When I disagree with this person’s opinions I have begun showing visibly my disapproval.  Others have noticed this and my dear spouse was kind enough to bring this to my attention. The point is I have begun what inevitably turns into a way of life……looking for and thinking about what I do not like about someone or something that is not quite right. During my self-examination I came to realize I should not allow this habit to creep into my thinking. I must catch myself and seal my lips. Correcting – that is fixing everyone and everything – is a bad idea!

I need to watch myself whether I am on this careful lookout of what needs to be fixed, or repaired. It is finding the cracks and flaws of life and either trying to fix them or at least point them out to others. This tendency is not good. It encourages me to think about what is wrong with everyone and everything…..what I do not like. So rather than appreciating our relationships and our precious lives this encourages me to end up thinking nothing is ever good enough the way it is.

What I need to do is to remain being interested without judgement – in the way other people choose to live and behave. This will help me become more patient. Being interested in the way other people act is a way of replacing judgment with loving kindness. When I am genuinely curious about the way someone reacts or the way a person feels about something, it is unlikely that I will also be annoyed. This is a way of becoming less frustrated by the actions of others.

When someone acts in a way that seems strange to me, my most likely way of reacting is: ‘I cannot believe this person would do that!

Instead of this I plan to say to myself something like, ‘I see, that must be how this person sees the things in this world; very interesting!’

In order for this strategy to be help me, I have to be genuine.  There is a fine line between ‘being interested’ and ‘being arrogant’ as if I secretly believe that ‘my way is better’.

One of the fundamental rules of joyful living is that ‘judging others takes a great deal of energy and without exception pulls away from where I want to be…..achieving inner peace’.

The principle of realities tells me that individuals from different cultures will see or do things differently. Here goes one line in the saying, ‘Pinde Piinde Matir Bhinna —- meaning various thoughts from various individuals. It is not the matter of merely tolerating the differences but truly understanding and honoring the fact that it literally cannot be any other way. Real understanding of this principle, I am sure, helps us to eliminate quarrels. When I expect to see things differently, that is when I take it as a given fact —- that others will do things differently and react differently to the same stimulus, then the sympathy I have for others rises dramatically. The moment I expect otherwise the potential for conflict does exist.

Whenver I am attached to having something or someone in a certain way, better than it already is, I am almost by definition engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what I have, I am focussed on what is wrong. It implies that I am dissatisfied, discontent.

Whether it is related to myself, e.g. a disorganized worktable, closet, scratch on the car, an imperfect accomplishment, the more salary I need to gain, or someone else’s imperfections – the way someone looks, behaves or lives their life – the very act of focussing on imperfection pulls me away from my goal of being kind and gentle.

This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do my best, but everything to do with being overly attached and focussed on what is wrong with life. It is about realizing that while there is always a better way to do something, this does not mean that I cannot enjoy and appreciate things the way they already are.

The solution here is to catch myself when I fall into my habit of insisting that things and individuals should be other than they are. I have to gently remind myself that life is okay the way it is right now. In the absence of my judgement, everyone and everything would be fine. If I begin to eliminate my needs for perfection in all areas of my life, I will begin to discover the real perfection in life itself.

BHARTI’S COMMENTARY:

These are the thoughts of a remarkable person, who is highly evolved spiritually. Noticing how different we are without judgement is the attitude we most need in this world today. People are too eager to censure and criticize people who think and behave differently, instead of seeing differences as a strength, born out of different life circumstances.

Just as we are the product of a particular environment and conditioning, others have marked differences from us due to their life situation and conditioning. This does not mean that we are right and they are wrong in the way they perceive the world. It just means they have different perceptions arising from different experiences and we need to make allowances for this, reflect on it and understand how this came about, and accept it as part of life’s varied tapestry without condemnation or prejudice.

Having said all this and firmly believing it as I do, I also recognize how hard it is to actually put this into practice, and how many times a day each of us fails to live up to this.  And the best of us, including Mr Thanedar, fail several times a day to cultivate a true attitude of non-judgment, as he would be the first to admit.

Sadly the worst prejudices pertain to religion and regional differences: Jains are hypocrites, South Indians are puny, Punjabis are loud-mouthed. These stupid prejudices prevent us from actually celebrating that we are different and being happy about it, and enjoying these differences that show us that variety is the spice of life. So next time you say, ‘Punjabis are like……..’  catch yourself right away and say ‘My friend is Punjabi and he is a pearl among men. If I generalize about Punjabis, I will lose the ability to appreciate my particular friend.’

Mr Thanedar brilliantly expresses that we must not only accept but expect differences to exist  between us all. There is no one in the world who has your particular voice, features, history, and demeanor, and that must be recognized as normative. If we do this, the potential for conflict diminishes. We must constantly watch for and guard against this habitual behavior of desiring people and things to be other than what they are, i.e. to be more perfect than they are. If we can eliminate perfectionism, we might be able to see how perfect things truly are for our needs.

None of us can, or should be, categorized. Let’s drop the pejoratives we all carry around with us like ammunition. We are all born free and we cannot be boxed into these categories and labels. Let us be free to be gloriously different and gloriously ourselves, and even gloriously imperfect, unique among God’s creatures, for the way it is is the way it should be…. until, that is, we can be soulful enough to channel reality another way by God’s grace, for then the kaleidoscope turns and the pieces fall a different way.

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