Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Love as retribution

Do you have someone in your life whose mission seems to be to torment you?

There is a person like that in my life.

I have spent hundreds of hours trying to determine what I said or did that made this person decide to be my enemy and an equal number attempting to build a stronger, healthier relationship.

Inevitably, just as it seems we are succeeding, just as I feel we have turned that corner toward mutual respect, even affection, she attacks with a vengefulness that takes my breath and my equilibrium.

Perhaps it is my naivete, but each time I am stunned anew.

And each time, I respond at gut level, whether I choose to show it or not, with anger and a bitter desire for retribution.

Have you experienced something like this in your life?

How do such events, and the emotional responses they trigger, fit with your desire to create a peaceful world?

When I experience that bitterness, that longing to place a curse on the head of the woman who chooses to be my enemy, I feel like a hypocrite.

In those moments, I do not want to find peace. I want to use my intellect and the force of my being to cause her the harm she has caused me.

Then I begin to understand the impulse for war.

So again I pray, as so many times before:

Give me the love I do not feel for this woman. Soften my heart that I may want to love her, that I see her as you do, a child of all that is good and holy, a child beloved.
Sometimes my bitterness is too great and I ask for helper spirits to stand between me and her, to shield us each from the pain and suffering we may wish upon each other, to shower us both with love.

Surprisingly, these prayers work, though I may have to sacrifice my anger and desire for revenge again and again.

Each time I ask for love--and in absence of a sincere desire to love--ask to want to love, I am softened. When I am softened, the situation diffuses, if only that I regain a sense of calm and peace in my own heart.

Sometimes--not every time--but sometimes, she softens too. Once or twice, she has come to me later and apologized, an amazing admission for a proud woman.

In her post What More is there to Say?, Wanda Tucker quotes Goethe:
If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.
This is the person I want to be.

I am not alone. More and more people are exploring ways to respond to personal violence with peace.

In her post, wisdom-girl, Michelle O'Neil suggests we thank the people with whom we have grievances and give "up the victim mentality completely."

There are times I am indeed grateful to the woman who torments me, for she has challenged all my beliefs and revealed to me just how deeply my anger can cut.

She is a reminder of the reasons peace must always start within my own heart. Her hatred forces me to confront my political and spiritual beliefs on a visceral level.

It is easy to be at peace in meditation, in spiritual practice alone and with others. It is something altogether different when cut by another, whether through malice or thoughtlessness.

So I propose, after much experience with the phenonema, love as retribution. Try it. Let me know how it works for you. It can't hurt.