mothernaturedaughter asked: answer if you want/can: what is someone supossed to do when being mocked of or provocated? (as someone who looks for peace) should one ignore it? defend him self? i feel like if you let them do it you're not loving yourself. i just dont know what to do in those cases, so i stop being passive and become restless and distress cause i dont like hurting others but i dont like being hurt either. Namaste :)
Disclaimer: I’m not a Buddhist monk or priest or anything. I am just a psychologist who deals with conflict a lot and does much of my counseling work from a Buddhist perspective. Within that context, here’s what I can say.
I don’t see non-violence as the same as passivity. If someone is actively doing something to hurt you, you have every right to ask that person to stop. If that doesn’t work, you have every right to escalate that response to an appropriate level, as long as your response is not harmful in itself.
I quoted Unmon in a previous post. When asked what the core point of Buddhism was, he replied, “An appropriate response.” It’s not necessary not to feel upset when someone does something bad to you, it’s perfectly natural. Where we get into trouble is when we respond to anger with more anger. If your response to someone’s anger is calm, it’s going to be much more effective.
For example, I had a client a few years ago who had gotten into a confrontation in the street with someone who was being very aggressive and trying to start a fight. Short version: guy gets in my client’s face and threatens him and his dog with physical harm if they don’t get out of the neighborhood. Client stands his ground, doesn’t back down, words are exchanged, and eventually Aggro Guy backs down and walks away. My client (a budding Buddhist) had been cultivating nonviolence and compassion. He thought he had handled the situation really badly, and wished that he had been able to just walk away and passively avoid the confrontation.
My response was that although walking away would have been a non-violent option, it also would have rewarded the bad behavior that Aggro Guy was engaging in. By passively submitting to the Aggro Guy, my client would have reinforced the idea that it’s okay to harass people in the street, and therefore perpetuated Aggro Guy’s hostile behavior. By standing his ground and (non-violently) resisting Aggro Guy, my client did no harm. In fact, he potentially did some good in the world, if it made Aggro Guy pause before harassing the next funny-looking person who walked down his block.
Responding to anger with anger is not just a bad idea from a Buddhist perspective, it’s also a bad idea from a purely pragmatic perspective. If you’re being mocked or provoked, isn’t that exactly what the other person wants you to do? When you respond to anger with more anger, the provoker wins.
When you respond with complete passivity, you lose in a more subtle way. Yeah, you’ve been non-violent, but you’ve also perpetuated the idea that’s it’s okay for other people to be violent. Micro-win, perhaps, but macro-lose, definitely.
So, next time you feel that rush of anger when someone starts giving you shit, take a moment to breathe and see what kind of response is coming to you. If your impulse is to be hostile and angry back, take another breath and ask yourself if there’s a better way to handle this provocation. If you need to walk away, go for it with good conscience. But if can respond from a place of (relative) calm, you’re likely to be doing something effective and compassionate than if you do nothing.
Make the world a better place, one asshole at a time.