Monday, June 25, 2012

How to Be a Coward

I got snippy with a guy the other day. I could see the surprise on this face, so I realized I needed to turn down the volume. I felt a bit embarrassed and he felt a bit hurt. We went on with our conversation, pretending like nothing happened.

After the conversation I left, and then I thought, "wow, where did that come from? When did I become such an asshole?" I was uncomfortable. I could feel it in my chest. There was a battle going on inside my head, but I decided I had a lot to do, so I pushed the thoughts and discomfort away. It's easy to keep painful or disturbing thoughts away by finding other ways to distract your mind. That's how people with families become workaholics.

I once worked with a guy who was a real bully and a workaholic. He was always coming down on his staff and everyone he worked with. He was notorious around the office. One mean-spirited comment from him would throw people into fits of self abasement and despair.

I realized the other day, that this bully was just a coward. It became clear when I got snippy with that guy, and then watched my mind push away the feeling of discomfort that followed. I realized that this reaction to push away a bad feeling is the root of cowardice.

I realized that the guy who had bullied me and my colleagues was pushing away the negative feelings in his heart. The pattern had become so strong for him, that he probably didn't even have a second to feel the negative feeling anymore. He had learned to push away the feeling before it even had a chance to peek its head out and say hello. This is how people become heartless cowards, and it's the reason why the words "heartless" and "coward" go so well together.

As meditators, we aspire to be intimately familiar with our hearts. The heart is sensitive, like a lightning rod of feelings. When emotions come up, thats where you notice them. If you become comfortable with those feelings in your heart, you become fearless. If you push those thoughts away, your heart becomes cold, hard and non-sensitive. Then you become a coward.

A few hours after I got snippy with that guy the other day, I realized I was being a coward. I realized I had lost control of my emotions and hurt someone. I realized this wasn't a huge deal because we all have emotional outbursts and therefore I had no reason to be critical of myself beyond the point of recognizing what I had to do to repair the damage.

The only way to fix the situation was to go straight into the discomfort. I went and found the guy the next day and then I apologized. Yeah, it was slightly uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as stewing in my cowardice.

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