Others may treat us poorly and it may not be their fault.
We never truly know what is going on behind the scenes with another person. We don’t know what their life is like at home, at work, or even inside themselves. There are forces at play in each of our lives that shape our attitudes, our perspectives, and guide our actions, forces that we each have little or no control over. Sometimes we are made better by these forces acting on us, but sometimes we are made worse by them.
If a person is selfish, short-sighted, and/or abusive toward us, it helps to understand that they may have outside forces acting on them that have pushed them in this direction. They may feel backed into a corner and, like a frightened animal who will do anything to survive, act out of fear. They may feel unsupported at home or at work. They may have financial or health issues we are unaware of. They may have been or are being abused. We simply don’t know.
This is not an excuse or a justification for bad behavior. We should not accept the unacceptable or tolerate the intolerable. However, part of having integrity means not letting the negative actions of others make us behave negatively in turn. Empathy and compassion are shields against reactionary negativity.
By trying to see that the pain another person causes is likely the result of pain that they themselves feel, we can, at the very least, not perpetuate that cycle. At best, we can help to change it, to show them that they are not alone, that they are supported, and that they are loved, even in spite of their attitudes and actions. Their seeing this is not our responsibility, but our showing it is.
Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.
-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body, Severna Park’s Holistic Chamber of Commerce, and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu