“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
― Hermann Hesse
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some form of the following: What you hate the most in other people, the thing others do that drives you craziest is IN YOU. In truth, that’s why you dislike it so much … AND every time I heard it I thought: Yeah, I can see how that might be true for some, but not ME!
I was wrong.
I used to be super conservative politically, religiously, and theologically … so pretty much in all aspects of life. A prime characteristic of this mentality, for me anyway, was being judgmental. I was quick to decide who’s “in” and whose “out”. I easily declared which people were “evil” or “good.” I was certain who God favored and who the Divine disliked. I knew the ways everyone should live. I could keep going, but I’m guessing you get my point. (Please note, this was MY experience of being a conservative/fundamentalist. I know AMAZING conservatives who are NOT this way, so I’ll emphasis I’m talking about my experience and journey … period.)
I don’t think this way or believe these things anymore. Truthfully and humbly I’d venture to say I’m pretty decent at loving and accepting ALL people these days … EXCEPT people who are judgmental, like how I perceive fundamentalists. They drive me CRAZY. I don’t understand how they could possibly think/believe/act that way, not embrace people as they are, and exclude (and even hurt) others. How is that loving? How do judgmental attitudes make the world a better place? Not only do I not get it, it gets my blood boiling!
Why? I think it’s not only because I used to be “that guy”, but because it’s also still IN me. I have a judgmental bias to my thoughts. I’ve tried ignoring, shaming, hating, excluding, and neglecting my judgmental/fundamentalist self, and do you want to know how effective that’s been in making me a better person? Not … at … all! Shaming, hating, shunning, pointing fingers at, or ignoring an “issue” does NOT inspire change.
Negativity does NOT lead to personal growth OR kindness toward and care for others. But you want to know what does? Love. Love and positivity are heaven breaking into earth. Loving our worst bits leads to greater personal transformation AND love of others.
Here’s a story as to why I believe and have experienced this to be true. You know how we have those tapes that play in our heads? For instance, after I get all judgmental and high and mighty, my inner critic will try to send me into a shame spiral. He/she will remind of how my ex disliked that about me, how no one really likes hypercritical people, how I’ve failed at being loving, and so on. My critic will basically go on a downward spiral of telling me I suck.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love fame, gave me a SUPER helpful tip on a podcast for these situations. She said when she’s feeling lonely, ruminating on how her first marriage fell apart, and so on, her tapes of how she’s unlovable will start to play (I have those too!). She’ll get super sad and begin journeying toward despair. In those moments she said she will literally say in her head: “Liz, I love that about you! I love that you have such a tender heart, laid yourself out there, and were hurt in the past. Wow. You’re incredible.” In that moment of love and acceptance, poof, the demons of shame, judgment, despair, hate, and the inner-critic disappear.
There are two, dare I say magical moves and realizations Liz, you, and I can make here. First, it’s realizing YOU are NOT your thoughts. Second, it’s recognizing EVERYTHING comes from a place of essential goodness.
Understanding you are NOT your thoughts will change our lives. Your inner critic, and we all have one, is NOT YOU. Your worry about the future is not you. Your regret over the past is not you. Your beliefs are not you. YOU, beautiful friend, are all together something different, precious, and amazing. The true you is made in the image of the Divine, comes from the good Creator, and will return to the loving Source (if you wish). I say this for a variety of reasons, but lets focus on the super practical. What are you thinking right now? … Who answered that question? Who observed your thoughts and then reported what they were? Your True Self saw your thoughts, its the essence of your being (perhaps your soul), which is NOT your thoughts, feelings, or body.
This brings me to satan … I bet you didn’t see that coming. 🙂 In the Bible, “the satan” is more of a title than a name; it means “the accuser.” Whether you believe there’s a literal being called satan, believe it’s a spiritual force, or think it’s a silly superstition, let me posit an idea I hope we can all agree on, because I think it’s SUPER helpful for transformation, love, and bliss for us all. Satan is a thought, a desire, the inner critic, the judgmental voice, the accusing whisper, and the impulse to exclude in EACH of us. I believe Jesus is getting at this reality in Matthew 16.23 when he calls Peter “satan” for opposing the Way of self-sacrificial, others-oriented, enemy-embracing Love.
I think the key thing to remember here goes a little something like this: The “evil” or “bad” we see and dislike in others is also in you and I … AND it is NOT you and I, they are thoughts, and YOU are NOT your thoughts.
This brings me back to the judgmental bias of my thoughts. When, like Liz, I tell myself how I love that part of myself, its power goes away. Not only that, my shame flees. I realize it doesn’t define me, because it’s NOT me. What is more, from a place of compassion and curiosity, I’m then able to ask myself: Why are you sometimes judgmental? What’s the kernel of goodness this comes from? As a quick aside, evil cannot create. Everything created comes from good. Evil will twist and warp, but it has to start from goodness, which means if you drill down far enough, everything has a good origin. When I do this, I realize my tendency to judge comes from a pure and loving place, a desire for a good and just world, meaning peace, joy, and love for all beings everywhere.
Realizing you and I are not our thoughts, and loving our darkest bits, because they come from a place of essential goodness has the power to transform our lives in the most amazing ways. Not only that, though, it also enables us to fully and freely love others, brings us closer together, and, in my mind, is key for a healthy and happy world.
To get at what I mean by that, allow me to circle back to satan and Jesus telling Peter, “get behind me, satan!” As I mentioned, I believe satan as an impulse or thought to accuse, shame, and harm is in EACH of us, and recognizing this is vital for loving everyone. As long as we think “that” (be it being judgmental, violent, shaming, gossiping, negative, proud, vain, gluttonous, or _____) is ONLY in “others”, we can’t and won’t fully and freely love people, life, and reality, AND we’ll miss and neglect our own inner-darkness. We’ll divide and name other people “evil”, while we remain “good”. We’ll go to war and harm or kill each other relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically.
When I think only “them” are judgmental, it’s easy for me to demonize her or him and cast them out. Yet, when I realize that “demon” is also in ME, then I can easily have compassion, understanding, and care for others. It allows me to move toward my enemies, and realize he/she isn’t really my enemy. It frees me to understand those I dislike. It empowers me to love those who are different from me.
It seems to me this is the path forward to a happier, healthier, and more peaceful world. It’s Love filling every nook and cranny of reality. It will bring heaven to earth and change our world for the better. What do you think? What do you make of remembering you are NOT your thoughts and loving your dark bits because they come from a place of essential goodness being key to personal growth and loving others?
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Grace and peace,