I recently read an interview on Vox, A Buddhist Monk explains mindfulness for times of conflict, and was reminded about how important it is to look to yourself before judging others. Actually, a few minutes after reading this article I also read a blog about judgement.
So often we speak of the atrocities of ‘This World’ as if it is something outside of us. We look to others to blame. Living in our current times of turbulence where nothing seems stable or still, we constantly find reasons ‘out there’ for the disruption.
My husband, Matt, is my best teacher in this. We often have conversations about how terrible the world is. How much violence there is. How much imbalance. It is he who reminds me that it is OUR world – not THE world. I have the ability to be violent, to be despicable and vile just as much as anyone else. Matt always tries to side with the villain in a movie (often to the point of exasperation for me!). He reminds me that those that commit acts of atrocity also have the ability to love and be loved.
It is not for us to be judge and juror of others and their behaviours. In the interview the monk is asked: “So let’s say you’re anticipating a conversation with a family member at Thanksgiving who holds a racist view. And you see that as the wrong view. What would you recommend as way to engage with this person?”
His response puts into words (better than my own) what I am trying to put across:
“The way I practice is that you cannot ask people for what they do not have. You only make yourself suffer. So you don’t need to try and convince them. Don’t put stuff in their box they’re not going to want. It’s a waste of saliva.
When there is discrimination, you can use the opportunity to increase understanding. You can concentrate on what makes you happy; there are other elements in this person, not just the prejudice. You have to find also the good qualities in them. Don’t focus on wrong views because that makes you angry.
This is not wishful thinking or deluded thinking. This is taking care of yourself. Only when you can do that — when you can be a good listener and be nonjudgmental — is a dialogue possible.
When I think I am right, I am on a course for a lot of conflict. Because I am stuck with my own views and not open to other people. So I suffer. When I see that in other people, I see they are suffering. Maybe kindness is there. Their viewpoints may not be correct, but their heart may be kind.”
This is SUCH a challenge. How on earth do we begin to see the villains of the world as people with ‘kindness in their hearts’?! When heinous things happen to seemingly good, kind people how do we not judge the perpetrator?
In all honesty – I don’t know! It is something that I struggle with daily. My only hope is that by being aware of these judgments and questioning them, getting curious with how I see OUR world, might begin to provide some insight.
Perhaps it is for us to simply keep offering kindness to both victim and perpetrator. It is not for me to try and change the world – I can only change myself.