Know who you are, know what you're not

During a Friday night retreat at MDC recently, we were talking about how hard it is to not react when someone insults you or says something disrespectful. But why do we feel such a strong urge to “defend” ourselves in those situations? What’s being threatened?

Perhaps we feel defensive because we suspect there might be an element of truth to the insult. We’re afraid, because the words might reveal a weakness or shortcoming.

But most of the time, the fault is made-up--it’s not real. We react to something that isn’t true.

When we know ourselves through and through, and we recognize the goodness inside, it’s easier to see those insults as what they are: limp and meaningless. There’s an old Buddhist saying that goes something like this: “If someone calls you a dog, don’t get angry. Instead, just look at your bottom. If you can’t see a tail there, then it means you’re not a dog. End of problem.”

If someone came up to you and called you an awful, good-for-nothing accountant, how would you react? Would you get angry? Probably not (unless you’re an accountant, of course! Feel free to substitute in any profession that isn’t yours). You’d probably think it’s slightly silly even, because you’re not an accountant, after all.

So the next time someone says something insulting to us or about us, can we pause for a moment and reflect on whether it’s worth reacting to? Can we use it as an opportunity to remember our inner goodness?

If we do, we might find the words rolling right off.