On enhancing our ability to love:
I just received an e-mail from a client of mine. She wants me to talk to her niece, Becky.
Becky, it seems, has lost her children who are being held “hostage” by her evil ex-husband.
When I hear that, I see a heroine strapped to a conveyor belt that is rapidly approaching a buzz saw. Close at hand is an evil looking fellow with dark, unkempt hair, a black beard and an evil laugh. “Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha!”
We loved the old TV shows in which there were good guys wearing white hats, and bad guys wearing black ones. We could always tell which was which, and that felt good.
Today on reality TV, talk shows and even the presidential race, we are treated to simplistic thinking, imagining that there are good people and bad people and that we can tell which is which.
I want to be clear here: I am not saying it’s terrible to think there are good and bad people. I am suggesting that almost any of us will work up into a froth or a frenzy if we imagine that we have a just cause, or have discovered the right side, or found an enemy: Monsanto, Big Tobacco or an abusive spouse worth fighting.
The other day my daughter was regaled by her mother in law with what ought to be done to pedophiles. I will spare you the details but it included a dull rusty knife and the removal of parts.
None of us are angels when we have found a cause.
Find a bad guy, gather some people together and you are going to have some trouble.
No Bad Guys
I seem to have fallen off some sort of reality cliff. I simply can’t perceive good and bad people anymore. It seems to me that niece Becky met a man and fell in love with him. Children resulted, probably to try and hold together a relationship that wasn’t going well and now, with resources they never had, they are supposed to split a three and a five year old into equal halves so they can share the kids they made together.
I don’t get it. It seems that rather than a bad guy, what we have here is a failure to communicate, and I’m quite certain that both of them have brought all of their resources to bear. Instead of pointing a finger or having a custody battle, it might be worth addressing the inabilities of these sweet people, all four of them, who somehow went off the track.
You may call me a bleeding heart, or imagine that I don’t get it: but I don’t think that anyone really deserves to have any part of themselves cut off in the absence of anesthesia and in the presence of great pain. It seems to me that the ones we call “bad guys” are already in agony, and it isn’t up to me, or you, to dole out more.
Certainly, if a child is in a compromised position or someone is experiencing physical abuse we need to remove them from the situation pronto. But resolution doesn’t mean punishment. Instead we can get quickly curious about how we might offer more honest education and well-being support, and build a system that provides us the relating skills we need to function in our fast paced world.
Yes, learning necessary skills is a softer, more compassionate and likely successful approach than stepping on karma’s toes, trying to determine what happens to whom.
I discovered long ago that it isn’t my job to be anyone’s karma. I’m busy juggling my own.
Many years ago I participated in a self-help program that invited all participants to “complete their lives.” Over a number of weeks we were urged to look deeply and consistently at ourselves without blinking. We were to notice what sort of things bobbed to the top of our attention when we felt our best, or weren’t under any pressure at all.
Then, between sessions, which mostly included looking deeply into the loving eyes of another for inspiration, we would “clean up our lives.”
I went back to the savings and loan that had accidentally given me a hundred dollars too much and gave them back the money. I fixed a dent in my car, threw out clothes I would never wear again, said things to past lovers (or surrogates for those past lovers), and told my parents that I loved them until they got it. It took a while.
With each completion, I felt more whole, more honest and other things. Deeper, darker things surfaced that I could then complete.
I visited my parents. As usual, my father headed right down to the garden. My mother and I began our usual practice of gossiping about how he should be sitting talking with us instead. We had this same conversation every time I visited. But this time I stood up and said, “I am going to help him in the garden.”
All the completion I was doing in my life led me to real-time celebration and out of old patterns. My dad’s jaw dropped and he became suddenly excited like a little boy. We weeded the tomatoes, picked some peas and enjoyed each other’s company.
Our relationship was different after that. Better, much better, more loving and compassionate. Rather than passing the phone to my mom when I called, he would talk to me, we would share what was happening and connect.
My entire life hasn’t been the same since that several months of completion work.
I walk more lightly on the planet, don’t see bad people lurking or good people either. I see people doing their absolute best. And sometimes their best isn’t very good, and sometimes it is incredible.
A few years ago my girlfriend and I stopped at a rest area along route 57. The restrooms and picnic areas were buzzing. They were full of Special Olympics kids on their way to a competition with their chaperones.
One kid dragged himself proudly to the urinal, hardly able to walk but committed to doing it himself. Tears rolled down my face watching these kids and the people supporting them. They didn’t look like most people you see in a mall, at work or in the mirror. These were shiny little faces, happy with the simplest things.
At that moment I realized that each of us is in our own Special Olympics—we have our own events that we engage in, aren’t equipped for and need support in. We are all over our heads sometimes, not really able to do anything but survive. We are all challenged in love, relationship and life. We are all Olympians worthy of profound support. None of us are bad or good, but all of us are somewhere in between, in the process of evolving.
We need help, not punishment, love, not hate, and compassion, not simplistic solutions. Lets dance together, play together and set the silly idea of good and bad people aside altogether, realizing that we are one.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Wikimedia Commons