Patience, Tolerance, and Forgiveness
The practice of forgiveness happens when we are able to realize the underlying cause of our anger and impatience, and this allows us to distinguish between someone’s unskillful behavior and essential goodness. Serenity and calm develop as we learn to accept imperfection in others and ourselves. — Michele McDonald, “Finding Patience”
I am a retired professional grudge-holder with a heavy-weight “grudge champion belt” and a brag room full of trophies. I was good. I was intolerant, impatient, an astute overlooker of my own defects. My anger and self-righteous pity kept the fog distorting reality firmly over my eyes. I was a real piece of work!
I literally hated everything and everyone. Christianity = Cult. Parents = Abusers. Sister = self-absorbed gold-digger. Bosses = Stupid. Religion = For the weak. Forgiveness = Giving someone a free pass. All that good bullshit that keeps us from look at ourselves; I did it. I actually held grudges at people for literally breathing in my space.
I had two full-time jobs. Wall Street Strategist and Train Etiquette Enforcer. Everyday on the 6:00 PM train there would be people that didn’t get it and need enlightening, something I felt acutely responsible for. Take the guy loudly flipping the pages of his newspaper behind my head. I’d school him by turning around and saying, “I’m only gonna say this once, your newspaper is not going to be part of my commute, got it!” Or how about the other guy having a loud cell phone conversation behind me with his head resting on the back of my seat, it sounded like a damn megaphone! He got, “Buddy, that call just ended so hang the phone up now or it’s going out the window”. P.S. the windows didn’t open.
I was a miserable bitch. I’m sure a made for great conversation over the dinner table. “Honey, you wouldn’t believe the nerve of this crazy woman on the train tonight.” I thought I was tough, a seasoned New Yorker killing it all over town, just doing the normal good New York native thing.
Guess what? I wasn’t! I was brimming over with resentment at everything in life. Source? Fear. Angry at the world. Source? Fear. Afraid to truly look at myself; I had the whole thing all messed up,I was exhausted, and needed a psychic overhaul.
I turned back inward toward my Buddhist practice and began to observe myself and my actions. I looked at my behavior from all angles and found fear at the root of each end result. Fear is the universal thread that binds. It is the mother seed that grows all the defects, coping strategies, or symptoms that form our outward unskillful behavior. It is the shroud that covers our inherent Buddha Nature.
The more I sat and observed the more fear, self-loathing, and shame I uncovered. Until I could “give myself a pass” I couldn’t be kind or accepting of anyone else. Slowly, with help, I began to see that my unskillful behavior had served me well at certain times. Yet, it had begun to take steroids and was no longer of use to me. I began to see how I was doing the best I knew how with these coping strategies as a kid, but that they really didn’t serve me anymore. In fact, they’d gotten larger than me and were now pulling the strings and shouting commands.
Through this lense I was able to accept myself in all my many forms, to forgive my self-ignorance, and to uncover the little flame of true self nestled at my core. I was beginning to feel lighter and more peaceful. And then one day I noticed a miracle.
I took the 6:00 PM train home as usual and I didn’t hear a single sound! I had slipped into a meditative state without even realizing it and no one got yelled at from that day forward.
Forgiving ourselves means harming others less and the keys are Steps 6 and 7.
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