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Daily Connect: Giving Up on Another Person
Submitted by KimberlyBrown on Tue, 5/17/2011, 8:48am
What does it mean to "give up" on someone? Does it mean cutting them out of your life? Does it mean living with them and hating everything they say and do? Does it mean wishing they were someone else? Does it mean hating them? Or is it the simple belief that someone never can or will change?
At the lovingkindness retreat two weeks ago, Sharon Salzberg mentioned that one of her teachers often said, "Never throw anyone out of your heart." She laughed when she told us her friend and colleague Sylvia Boorstein had amended this to, "You can throw someone out of your life if you need to, but never throw them out of your heart," and we all laughed too because it's a funny idea to us: to care about someone who is difficult, or mean, or harmful.
When my teacher bestowed the Boddhisattva Vow, he told us that although each day we'll have unkind thoughts and unskillful deeds, so long as our aspiration is true, our vow cannot truly be broken. Though the vow is accompanied by a long list of behaviors and actions to avoid, by sincerely acknowledging and regretting a transgression, we remain on the Boddhisattva Path. However, we break the vow when we completely give up on another person; by thinking, That's it, I'm not going to do anything for you ever again, I've had it with you!
Anytime we have such a powerful feeling, we're filled with anger, sadness, grief, and disappointment. We don't have to be Buddhist or take a Bodhisattva Vow to intuitively understand how painful it is to harbor resentment, which usually causes us deep heartache and misery. The editor and radio host Judith Regan explained this perfectly in a recent interview, relating her experience with her ex-husband. He'd been an abusive partner and neglectful father, and she had cut him out of her life. Many years later, at her son's wedding she saw him again:
When he arrived, he was holding onto his nurse. He was quivering and unsteady on his feet. “I suppose you think I am getting my comeuppance,” he said. Before I could say a word my sister piped in with, “You could say that again.”
But the truth is I didn’t feel that way at all. Seeing him suffer from Parkinson’s disease broke my heart. He seemed not at all the image of the irresponsible swashbuckler I’d carried with me for so long. I was filled with overwhelming regret that I had turned my back on him. I should have answered his calls. I should have forgiven him. I should have let go of the disappointment long ago. What a horrible mistake I’d made to abandon all hope, to empty my heart of any possibility of love or compassion.
"Giving up" on anyone, even ourselves, means giving up the belief that each and every one of us without exception has the nature and potential to realize enlightenment and become free of suffering and confusion. Why do that? As Sogyal Rinpoche says, “Our buddha nature is as good as any Buddha’s buddha nature.”
Peace to Everyone Everywhere!
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