Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes. — Unknown
(But Seriously… 😉 )
Whenever you attempt to deny or repress… shadow selves, it only serves to add to their power.
— Raphael Cushnir, from Setting Your Heart on Fire, Seven Invitations to Liberate Your Life
Think about those qualities you simply cannot stand in someone else. What drives you batty and makes you foam at the mouth?
Now I want you to find where that is also true in you.
I mean it.
Stop and take a look.
Have you never in your life been arrogant or spoken down to someone? Are you a model of efficiency and social graces? Has there never been a time when you tooted your own horn to push forward an idea? Cut someone off? Casually found yourself at the front of the line? Stepped on someone (even a little) to climb the ladder? Found yourself “superior”? Judged someone for their flaws? Truly, are you a Saint? A model citizen? If so, I’m sorry to hear that, you’re really missing out on life. (Can you hear my own disdain for “model citizens”? We all do this, more often than we realize.)
Listen carefully to what I’m saying here… I’m not condoning a lack of citizenship and social graces. (Precisely the opposite.) What I am saying is this: as the brilliant Mr. Cushnir stated above, whatever it is we repress or deny in ourselves grows powerful and moldy in the shadows of our consciousness. Whenever we hold ourselves above others by disallowing that we are ever ______, we deny a part of ourselves and everyone is diminished by extension. As long as we condemn as “evil” those parts of ourselves we find “unsavory”, we will continue to place them onto others and the cycle can never end.
A funny story. I was talking to a friend a few years ago and I was muttering my outrage about bigotry and how I just didn’t get it. This wise friend of mine asked me, “So, how do you feel about bigots?”
That stopped me…
In the very act of complaining about the irrationality of bigotry I was myself being a bigot towards bigots!
Now some of you may shout, “of course you should condemn bigots!” And again, I’m certainly not condoning bigotry! But what I am saying is; as long as I saw bigots as “over there” and me safely behind the wall of “self-righteous non-bigot”, there could never be any common ground and the battle would have to continue. Did I do a 180 and never rail against bigots again? No… but I did begin to question my knee-jerk reaction and that was a good place to start.
When we cannot (or will not) allow ourselves to relate to our fellow human, to “walk a mile in their shoes”, we rule out the possibility of ever finding common ground. And are we left with? You got it… Wars.
It falls to each of us to explore our commonality before our differences. When the next “offense” occurs, rather than default to “that so-and-so, bla di blah…” Once the heat of the moment wears off, how about reflecting for a moment… “How am I being judgmental-belligerent-arrogant-belittling in my own life? Or of myself?”
By denying parts of who we are, we live only partial lives, and our wounds fester in the dark behind our walls of fear & shame. (Our Shadow knows that this is also the place of our greatest strength.) By tenderly shining some light on those dark places, we can start to embrace all of who we are. We can begin to heal; first ourselves and then the planet.
Always infinite possibilities… always your choice
Please feel free to comment below!
Music Credit: Link Wray, ©1964, “The Shadow Knows”