many paths lead to the desert oasis near my retreat house
Yesterday, I sat outdoors at a local coffee shop. The two people who sat next to me were apparently co-workers since they were having a very animated (and easily overheard) conversation about the people they worked with. They obviously found little merit in anyone else but themselves.
Their boss showed too little respect. Someone else in their office didn't work fast enough so he made everyone else less efficient. Someone else was judged as being too lazy, another too stupid, and then there was that girl who dressed too provocatively and was too much of a flirt. This stream of nasty judgement and attack went on for the entire time I sat there - all done in plain sight for everyone else to hear.
As I sat and over heard this conversation, I felt my stomach churn. I didn't even know these people next to me or the people who were being skewered, but it all felt wrong to me. I felt as if I were swimming in a pool of chaos, and I felt like some part of me was being torn apart.
The teaching of the great world religions all have something to say about judging the faults of others:
- The faults of others are easier to see than one's own faults; the faults of others are easily seen, for they are sifted like chaff, but one's own faults are hard to see. (Buddha)
-Glad tidings to the person more concerned about his own faults than bothering about the faults of others. (The Prophet, Muhammed)
-Why do you see the speck in our neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye," when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. (Jesus)
I have reflected long and hard about my coffee house experience yesterday. I truly do believe that every fault I have ever found in another person is almost always something I dislike about myself, but am afraid or unwilling to admit it.
When I judge others for their faults, I am always operating out of my own self-centered ego. It somehow makes "me" feel better if I can talk about the faults of others - talking about others protects "me" from facing my own "self."
My stomach churned yesterday while listening to that coffee house conversation. I felt as if something was being torn apart - and it was.
The great wisdom teachers of the ages have always pointed us to walk down paths of compassion. They have always pointed us toward the building up of harmonious relationships as a way to finding deep peace.
As I sat outdoors at a coffee shop yesterday, the harmonious fabric of our common humanity was being shredded, and I found myself swimming in an ocean of chaos.
I don't want to swim in those waters.