In every transaction, whether in love or life, somebody’s selling and somebody’s buying.
If you’re selling ego, drama, deceit, whining—well, then, no thanks.
Anger, grudges, pretentiousness or all-around nonsense? Peddle elsewhere.
If you’re generally a cold heart cloaked in a warm body—not interested. Not even a little bit.
I didn’t always think this way. I used to think I had to bend over backward to be nice to everyone, even the perpetual shitheads.
Thankfully, yoga gave me backbone.
Most of us are predisposed to respond to people in a friendly, compassionate, positive way—because those are the kind of people we typically meet.
But let’s face it, we’ve all encountered, at one time or another, the bad apples—those with chronic selfishness or airs of superiority; so-called “friends” who get their jollies by making others feel small; people with a mean streak that you can’t seem to rub out, no matter how hard you try to teach and listen and love.
The Yoga Sutras, the bible that‘s guided the study and practice of yoga and meditation for the last 40 centuries, has a solution for staying calm while responding to this “wicked” persona—as well as the three other kinds of people it says we’re likely to encounter on our path:
“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”
“Wicked” is a triggering word, and few of us like to slap such a negative label on another. And, of course, this isn’t to say that people are inherently bad—although patterns in their behavior over time can certainly qualify.
For the sake of simplicity (and at the risk of overgeneralizing), I’ll swap in the term “bully.”
I’ve encountered a few bullies in my lifetime and, until too recently, I found myself responding in the quietest way possible: I laughed at their jokes, even though they were mean-spirited. I listened to them gossip about and put down others, at the same time I was convinced they spoke the same way about me the instant I was out of the room. I showed them compassion and the benefit of the doubt, thinking that they didn’t come out of the womb like this but they were made this way. I responded this way in part because I thought it was kind, but, truth be told, because I feared being their target.
It is one thing to have patience, perspective and second chances; heaven knows I’ve been lucky in my life to have their grace extended to me.
But when we take yoga’s teachings to heart and shine the light of compassion on ourselves, we understand there are times that, in order to preserve our own precious emotional energy, the best we can offer is indifference.
“Eventually, you begin to realize that life is too short and your powers to teach influence or heal are limited,” says writer Bryant McGill.
So we get more comfortable coming to the conclusion that because we cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves. And we realize we are empowered to meet someone else’s steady stream of baloney with the disregard it merits—saving, in the process, all our friendliness and compassion and delight for those who deserve it.
That’s not abandonment of someone else; that’s permission to honor ourselves.
So bullies, be gone! Sell your wickedness elsewhere; I’m not buying it anymore.
If instead you’ve got softness… if you’ve got a curious mind and a tender heart… if you can love me for who I am and not for what I can do for you… then come closer.
If I can look into your eyes and see honesty and look into your soul and find compassion, then let’s be friends.
The people I want in my tribe have some good things in common: they’re genuine and vulnerable; they’re unafraid to admit mistakes and, even better, eager to learn from them.
They’re full of laughter, full of second chances, and confident enough to tell it like it is, even when it’s not what I want to hear. They’re real.
They offer no BS, just love. And that’s what they get in return.
Author: Becky Vollmer
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: spooky dad/Flickr