The new audio book “The Book of Joy” about Desmund Tutu and the Dalai Lama (by Douglas Carlton) came out and I’ve been listening to it on my long commutes to and from work. This morning they spoke of the famous “Golden Rule” (treat others how you want to be treated) but expanded on it. The topic was about how suffering often leads to joy, and those that have little suffers, tend to complain more and not have much joy. They spoke of how those that suffer (and grow from it) tend to be more capable of maintaining calm in the midst of chaos, and it is this calmness that helps others find calm as well.
Then something clicked when they said, “You must LONG for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”
This meant that deep inside your heart, you had to genuinely wish for the other what you had genuinely wanted for yourself.
To clear myself from any resentment and negative feelings about the loss of my marriage, I have been praying every morning and night for my husband. Although he has left me, I pray that he gets everything he wants, and that he has lasting inner peace, profound joy, and an abundance of unconditional love. This thought did NOT come natural, and for the first few days, it was just “fake it till you make it”. My anger and hurt were too strong for me to actually feel that sincerely. Now, several weeks in, I can say I truly do wish that he receives everything he could possibly desire, and that he is head deep in inner peace, full of joy, and receiving true unconditional love. Why? Because he needs it!
Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman, in their book, “Love Your Enemies” explain it this way:
“Love wishes the real happiness of the beloved. It is a partner to compassion, which wishes the beloved not to suffer. If you think about it, it is highly rational to love our enemies, with LOVE defined as wanting them to be really happy. They are only our enemies because they think of us as preventing their happiness. If they become really happy without having to get us out of their way, then they will not bother being our enemies anymore. The more happiness they feel, they might actually come to love us….or at least leave us alone.”
Yes… This is what I wanted. If he couldn’t love me, at least I could hope that his happiness would be so overly abundant that he would no longer wish to hurt me, verbally attack me, and continue hurting himself and exposing our baby to his sex, alcohol, and gambling addictions (and the emotional negative repercussions that spew out of them). If he was truly happy, would he even want to have those dangerous and hurtful addictions? I bet he wouldn’t…
This thought process, connected with the “Golden Rule” got me thinking: If my husband saw me as the enemy, someone who had taken from him what was so important to him (to get a green card) was there some way I could some how get out of that “enemy spot light” he held me under? What in my behavior was contributing to his thinking that I had literally ruined his life? Granted, there are some things that just won’t change, like his narcissistic thinking that actually believes that me choosing divorce instead of staying in a sham marriage and accepting his cheating and lying was somehow an unloving thing for me to do. That aside, there had to be some way in which my choice of words, or my “method of communication” was coming off, to him, as insulting and offensive. Could there be a way in which we both were “winners”? I.e., can I say what needs to be said in a way that he doesn’t feel like I’m attacking him?
I’m not sure of the author, but I love the quote: ”
“I’m responsible for what I say, not for what you understand”
While this opens the door for me to say what is in my heart, it still remains a very hefty burden. We should always be mindful about what we say. Sometimes it’s not necessary. Sometimes it is not helpful. And sometimes, while we may believe it, it may not be absolutely true. Taking responsibility for our words, being honest with our intentions, and being able to identify what really needs to be said, and what can be left alone, we can then communicate with our best intentions and then leave the interpretation to the listener. If you get a “bad listener” (someone who is always defensive, deflective, or reactive) you have to just let it go. You did your best. If you get a good listener, even if they may take offense, the conversation opens up for a genuine understanding and hopefully, reconciliation.
Unfortunately, my husband is less than skillful in the listening department, but that only means that I can choose to be more skillful in the “delivering necessary messages” department.
Since our separation, my baby has come back from his father’s home sick 3 times. Once with the flu, once with Pneumonia, and once with a fever/cold. While my husband blamed it on everything but himself, my gut reaction was to blame him for not being more careful about where he took the baby, proper hygiene, his choice to refuse my baby my breast milk, and basic parental negligence. Is there a loving way of saying that? NOPE!
Instead of saying:
“The baby got sick AGAIN. Every time he comes home from being with you he gets sick…you really need to pay attention to keeping him away from unhealthy places, people, and be mindful about proper hygiene…and for god’s sake, give him my breast milk! I worked hard at pumping all of that!”
I could either say nothing and just take care of the baby, or if I really wanted to make it clear that the baby was sick, I could say:
“Just wanted to let you know that the baby has a fever. I will take the weekend to let him rest and recover so that he will be healthy and ready to play the next time he sees you.”
Here’s another quote I love:
“Since enemies engage our energies of anger and fear,
our main weapons against them are
wisdom, tolerance, compassion, and love.”
-Sharon Salzberg & Robert Thurman
In thinking about how much I long to feel respected, loved, and supported, what greater opportunity to show respect, love, and support!! I was always cringing when my phone went off, hoping, praying, begging the universe that it not be ANOTHER negative and hateful text from my husband… Yet, I too, was equally guilty of sending less than loving, self-victimizing messages. So there you have it.
“You must long for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”