To Become At Peace With Others…

To become at peace with others,
become at peace with yourself.

Sometimes I find it difficult to embrace the virtue of tolerance. Over the years I’ve noticed it to be pretty much congruent with my feelings about myself. When my self esteem is diminished for some reason, whether it be because of interaction with another person or with the world at large–I want, I want (or “dukkha” as Buddhists call it)–I often turn into that guy who wants to make himself feel better by pointing out the faults of others: their conspicuous consumption, how stupid they are, their low standards of behavior–stuff like that.

On the other hand, when I’m feeling mellow I’m not only more willing to put up with other folks’ flaws, often I don’t notice them at all. If I do, I’m likely to write them off as amusingly human. When all’s right with me, all’s right with my world.

An excuse I’ve often used for pointing out other folks’ unskillfulness–by my standards–is the need to let the world know (a.) how terrible the people who don’t agree with me really are, or (b.) how much smarter I am. This perpetuates my feeling of false superiority, widening the gap between delusion and reality. Further, it perpetuates the idea of “them” versus “us” that  is the cause of most of the strife in the world.

These days (finally) I generally recognize the reasons for my discomfort after a while. Then I try to find something to do to take my mind off of my unskillfulness. Eating a snack will often make a difference since I, like many addicts, have mood swings when I’m hungry. Meditation helps, as does the old, familiar gratitude list. The trick is to recognize that I’m being an asshole in the first place.

There are legitimate reasons for being critical, and skillful ways of dealing with things that need to be addressed. I need to be sure, when I’m fixing something outside myself, that it needs fixing. Then I need to consider, carefully, whether doing so is really my job. Generally I find that fussing about “the things I cannot change” indicates a need to “change the things I can” (me). That’s if I can scrape up “wisdom to know the difference.”

I ask for the ability to recognize and accept those differences at every meeting. You’d think, after all this time, I’d be better at remembering.

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