Before opening the book, I went to my prayer list and opened a word document and listed the people I have troubling relationships with, or that I have so much contact with, I surely have harmed them. I came up with 15 names, although I have one client standing in for all the clients I work with, and one good staff person who I very much enjoy standing in for all good staff people. Other than those there are my immediate family members, close friends, and people I work with who I have trouble with. One of those is someone I like, admire, and love, and the others are people in my daily work life who I resent and feel anger towards, and administrators I don’t have much contact with, but who I blame, in a way, for what’s gone wrong. Anyway that’s it – I’ve made the list.
We might next ask oursevles what we mean when we say that we have “harmed” other people. What kinds of “harm” do people do one another, anyway? To define the word “harm” in a practical way, we might call it the result of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people. If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others. If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly goods, but of their emotional security and peace of mind. We really issue them an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful. If our sex conduct is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery, and a strong desire to retaliate in kind.
Just writing this out now, I got a bit of a surge of something like joy. It’s part of why I love this program and stay with it. I had loved and forgotten that particular piece of wisdom – We really issue them an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful. Yes! We do! I do! Although I understand that each person is in charge of his or her actions and reactions, including and especially me, bad conduct on the part of one person (especially me) invites the other person to be bad back, in return. When I behave wrongly, I’m asking the other person to somehow overcome their natural reaction and be kind and serene in spite of what I’ve done or said.
I don’t think I’ll ever be completely free from my friend, Justifiable Anger. I’m hoping that if I try not to feed her, she’ll starve, and die. By consciously turning away from it, I’ll spend less time with it, and maybe one day it won’t be an automatic reaction.
Looking up “harm” and then “injury,” I come up with words like hurt, damage, injustice. I guess I need to go on with this, and to meanwhile keep that important phrase in the front of my mind.