“Sometimes you have to allow yourself to be misunderstood.”
Even though these are my own words, oh how hard this is to carry out sometimes. Especially when people misrepresent you and then other people react to something that you never said or wrote or even remotely believe. Why have we grown a society which wants to prey upon its own kind like vultures to smaller birds? Why can’t we look at our society like us/us? Will we ever outgrow our survivalist fittest-ish ways? Will we ever grow up? Will our hearts ever communally break apart so wide open that love will really rule? Especially when people are willing to be honest and vulnerable in the hopes that it will help other members of this collective We that acts more like an auto-immune diseased species, fighting its own constitution.
Recently I’ve had the pleasure of writing a book that has helped many people. I hear from people daily—men, women, religious, not religious, married, unmarried, from the US and abroad, sharing their own stories, opening their own veins. And it blows me away that something as simple as being willing to commit to a philosophy of non-suffering and then getting the chance to apply it to a real life personal crisis can fill a heart hole in the world. It makes me wonder how much we are all hiding and stuffing away—how much we are so silently suffering.
What’s shocking to me, well maybe not so shocking really, is how people don’t want to be happy. Or free from suffering. Convinced that being victims serves them well, thankyouverymuch. How violently they’ll resist and attack this simple age-old message that well-being is really a choice.
It inspires me to think of the work of mothers. We would do our children well, then to point out that, no, no one made you mad. No one made you cry. No one made you sad. You chose that. Short of being punched in the face. Emotional pain is your choice.
Why do so many people NOT want to hear this message? Why? Because they get to be right. “See—the world sucks.” And they point the finger just like they’re used to doing, and they stay in their world of hurt. Again why? Because that’s their comfort zone. Well what if you started out being able to identify the pain and suffering in this sort of relationship with life and yourself? What if you learned and loved what it was to be internally free from an early age? Think of what the world would be like. Mothers, we have work to do!
It’s like the telephone game in grade school. Begins in one form, ends in a new creature altogether. It’s like the mean girl in high school starting a false rumor about you because her boyfriend has a crush on you or you grew boobs over the summer. People, young and old, have all kinds of guts behind a computer screen, or in closed rooms without an audience.
I remember once when two of my friends started a rumor about me in 7th grade. It was entirely untrue. And I was pissed. Not as much because of how it portrayed me in my school and my town, but because it proved that people are mean and I hated to see that this was so even in my own circle of beloved friends. So I got on my bike and I rode it over to the house where they were spending the night. I walked in the back door, and found them in the sunroom watching cartoons. My heart was pounding and I lifted my head and breathed deeply and sat down on the couch.
They ignored me.
I just sat there. Heart pounding, but my mind strangely calm.
Finally I spoke. “Why would you make up a lie about me? It hurt my feelings. What did I do to you that you would be so mean?”
They had no answer. We just sat there, like I was waiting to be absorbed into a cell wall but didn’t really care if I was or not. I just wanted to be a presence in the field of honesty. A heart pumping visibly in a room of meanness. Reminding them that they too had hearts. And that I would forgive them their humanness, even though it hurt. Eventually, we ended up playing outside and doing what kids/people do when they’re not being afraid and small and mean.
Years later, I was out to dinner with one of those girls. She had a big job in NYC and was a big celebrity because of it. People came up to her and fawned all over her and I sat there in the wrong outfit feeling a bit invisible. And finally, she said to me in a moment of privacy, “I’ll never forget that time I was mean to you when we were kids, and you came over to my house and confronted me. I think about that all the time. You were really brave. We were just jealous of you, because somehow you were able to be a nice girl and be popular– have power and still be kind. I don’t think we knew what to do with that. I was in a lot of pain in my life back then. You stood for a hope I didn’t know how to have. I’ve used that as a baseline way to be with people who are mean to me. And believe, me, people are mean to me, a LOT.”
I’d actually forgotten about that morning in the sunroom until she brought it up in that chic New York City restaurant. And I’ll admit that I breathed deeply and felt proud of my little girl self.
And now, although most of it is so incredibly positive and gracious, when I do read mean things about me or what I’ve written, I wonder what kind of pain people are in, that they cannot see the freedom in choosing to let go and that happiness is a simple choice. But just like that sunny room all those years ago, there’s not much I can say except that my heart is open. Is yours?
“We all need more kindness in this world”– Guy Davis