The biggest stumbling block I’ve come across since beginning my journey with Buddhism is compassion. In a world where people will hate me for not falling in with the gender binary, for not falling under heteronormative standards, for being disabled, for being a single parent, for having a uterus, finding compassion toward people who don’t like me for the sole sin of daring to live has seemed impossible for a long time. I struggle with it every day.
It seems like there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t battle with it, and most days, I lose at one point or another. I’m human, and I’m learning. I accept this. I also know that when I give in to that anger, I’m just bringing more suffering on myself by allowing that anger to consume me. But tonight, post-meditation, I had an epiphany related to compassion and the hatred toward me and people like me, and it seems so obvious now I can’t believe it didn’t smack me in the face before.
These people so filled with hate for others who are different than them, the bigots of the world who want others to suffer, are more than likely lashing out because they’re suffering, even if they don’t realize it. They choose to spread vitriol at others in order to make them feel better about themselves, they choose to inflict suffering on other people, and they do this because they’ve chosen to live a life of ignorance. It isn’t a judgement on them, it’s just a fact. They make a conscious choice to cling to hatred and ignore any views other than their own, and because of that, because they cling to their superiority, it causes them to suffer.
Rather than examine themselves and their lives, they lash out, trying to drag others who are living an authentic life down to their level, in order to maintain that delusion of superiority. And if you ask me, that’s a sad life, one devoid of any sort of happiness or peace, one that only results in them suffering more.
Granted, some of them may not feel they’re suffering. Some may even brag of their happiness. But a person who’s happy, a person who’s at peace with their life, won’t feel the need to attack others. They won’t feel the need to hurt others, or to try and cause them misery.
(That’s not to say that all people who treat others well are happy. Good people, people who seek to make others’ lives better, can be happy, sad, even angry. It all depends on the person.)
And for as angry as I can get (and hopefully, that’ll soon be in the past), with this realization, all I can feel is…it’s not sadness for them, or pity. I feel bad for them that their lives are that soaked in suffering and that devoid of meaning that they have to lash out. I can (at least at the moment, I can’t promise it’ll hold because once again, I’m only human) actually feel a measure of compassion for them, because I know what it feels like to feel that frustration with life, to be ignorant of basic things when it comes to others.
I chose to move away from that years ago, and chose to move toward inner peace a few years ago. It’s not an easy decision to make. It means letting go of all those things that you felt you were righteously angry over, and learning to let go. For someone with trauma in their past, like me, it’s an exercise in inner strength that I’m still trying to master.
But the people who never choose to take that first step? The people who would rather live with a cloud of prejudice surrounding their head to block any other views? I feel badly for them, because they’re only bringing suffering on themselves for that. You reap what you sow, what you send out comes back to you, love thy neighbor, you see it everywhere, and it’s true. And I can only hope that they wake up to the fact that, while life is full of suffering, there’s no reason to cling to it. It doesn’t make you better, or stronger, or superior. It only makes life harder for you.
Disclaimer: In the above entry, I speak only for myself, and to my view of things. I can’t promote this way of thinking for everyone, because your mileage may vary with this sort of thinking. Also, I’m not saying that everyone brings suffering on themselves. Some people just get really, really crappy hands dealt to them. All I’m saying is that if you’re awful to other people just because they’re different, you’re causing undue suffering in your own life. I can’t say that you have to like people who treat you badly, because I’m still working at that and it’s a completely understandable reaction to dislike people who directly hurt you.
I’m still working at having compassion for the people who’ve hurt me in life, and it’s something that I hope to one day achieve, but I can’t say for certain I will. All I can do is hope I do, and work at it, for the sake of not having this anger in me anymore, because that anger has eaten me alive, and I’m tired of devoting energy to people who didn’t care about me.