Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Mea Culpa's Too Full.

Last January I took a job as a customer service representative. It sounded sweet at first, but soured quickly when I learned to my horror that I had trouble navigating the databases.
One lady tried helping me, but she ended up frustrating me more, especially when she got the notion that it’d be cute to slap my hand if I moused over to the wrong database. I asked her not to do this, but she laughingly ignored my request, and after one particularly difficult period, my patience came to a complete and abrupt halt. I snapped at her, telling her quite forcefully to stop it. She looked at me as if I’d slapped her. She got up and left. I couldn’t have been more thankful.

But I rode home with her every day, and I could tell that I hurt her feelings. Ah, the guilt arose and I apologized for making her feel bad. She then proceeded to lecture me all the way home as to how bad she felt that I yelled at her, angry and hurt because she thought I was such a sweet lady and so forth and so on.

And I couldn’t stop apologizing to her.

Later on she went to tell me, (quite confidentially of course), that nobody liked me but her and that the instructor was going to drop me from class and it’d be best if I just left. Jesus, she said, had other plans for me. I think she was right in that regard.

I left on my own volition, not because of what she said. I found that there were things in the job that put me at odds with my spiritual contract, which I found more difficult to settle than the obligatory navigating of databases.

I never saw the woman again, although she lives two blocks down from me, which was just as well.

I had forgotten about this until a few weeks ago when Lama Jigme noted that I often apologized, and most often for the wrong things. He gently and lovingly explained to me how to make an apology more effective, how to use it as a learning tool and not as a weapon to attack someone else, no matter how passive it seemed.

I have to admit, that transmission stung a little, but he was oh so right. After mulling over what he told me, I realized that HH. Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche was also quite correct when it comes to someone lovingly and gently pointing out character flaws. He states in Heart Treasure of the Enlightened ones, “how can you repay such kindness?” And he’s right. Lama gave me a precious gift that day; one that I will cherish.

Was Lama mean to me? Oh my no. It was like having a friend extract a splinter from my hand. It stung a bit, but if he hadn’t the spiritual wound would have become infected. If he hadn’t cared, he’d have let me wander down a bad path. Now that I know, I can fix it, and the way to Liberation becomes clearer.

I didn’t apologize to the woman in the story above because I was sad I hurt her feelings, although on the surface that’s what I believed. Down deep I was making a passive aggressive statement, letting her know that I thought she was a rat bastard who had the audacity to treat me like a toddler in front of the class and the instructor. It was my way of punishing her, for her shaming me in public.

And her lecture was designed equally to punish me. So we gave ourselves quite a beating on the way home that day. It would have been better, in retrospect, to have said nothing, thanked her for the ride, and resumed having JW take me to work each day.

Have I stopped apologizing for the wrong things? Not yet. It took nearly 50 years to accumulate and groom this habit. I am, however, mindful of it, and I’m learning to I listen more before I speak, and then I’m careful not to apologize…for the wrong things…but rather for the right things…

Either way, it is a learning experience. And I’m not going to apologize for that.

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