Has someone upset you? .... buy them a gift
In fact, this is the whole point is to reduce and mitigate harm and suffering, not to increase it. If anything does increase it, we might have to ask whether this thing is doing what it is meant to be doing in the first place. To see the causes, the real causes of ones suffering is really the only true aim in life, and the gaining of the wisdom needed to be able to bring suffering to its ultimate end. When generosity is cultivated unbinding occurs, when unbinding occurs the heart is freed, and when the heart is freed the causes of nature can be seen and wisdom is the liberating result. Here, all anger, greed and disillusionment cease and instead the heart is inclined over and again in the direction of peace. Many years ago, someone wise told me that if someone upsets you, you should buy them a gift. I have since done this many times, from bunches of flowers to pot plants & boxes of tea. The amazing thing is that it works. Often, I will just leave the anonymously.
It is usually the process of going to buy the gift that begins to change the hurt and resentment that one might feel towards another. Often they are unlikely to be feeling the same way, how many times have you told someone that they did something hurtful, only to find them look blankly at you, completely unaware of what has taken place!
Of course all of us often over react, interpreting events incorrectly or being triggered by similar past hurts, with often deep feelings of anger and hurt resurfacing, and sometimes in reaction to simple remarks; and yet we all have to deal with the fallout of those reactions. Frequently, I have subsequently realized that the remark was not at fault, or the overreaction was in excess to the situation. Often I have realized too late that the other person was just a little insensitive or that I was over-sensitive, but then the damage is done, words have been said, boundaries broken, hurt feelings or petty resentments created. Sometimes it is possible to see and to rise above the reactivity of another, but often if the response is extreme then it can be very damaging for the people involved. Reputations and character assassinations occur, victimization, exclusion and isolation can be the result.
So I buy them a gift. I want them to know that they are loved, and I want to try and transform some of the pain or anger within my own heart. To keep myself calm and peaceful in the face of all difficulties is my gift to the world and is the fruition of true practice.
And really, who wants to be the bigger person? If we really believe in this work that we are doing, then it surely should favour the wise response. The heart can become healed by looking deeply into the feeling life of another person. Generosity opens up the heart muscle, it allows a softening of tensions and starts to allow some healing to take place at least within the confines of our own experience.
Opening the heart
Years ago somebody had really upset me. I raged for weeks unable to understand their behaviour, until in the end I decided to buy them a gift. That day I tiptoed down her path in the afternoon and left the beautiful pot plant I had bought on her doorstep. No letter, no ‘who it was from’, just a pot plant and her name on a piece of card. As I left a smile came over me, spreading throughout my face and then down my whole body as I laughed my way back down the street. Something had changed, some of the anger and hurt had been transformed. I don’t know if she ever knew that the plant was from me, she never said if she did. and it's true, our relationship was never the same a boundary had been crossed and new one built, but the pain in my heart had subsided, and maybe the pain in hers had subsided a little too. Even though I knew that things would never be the same again, the willingness to act, to find generosity towards someone who had deeply hurt me had started the process of trying to forgive.
Of course some hurts are too big, we just need to take steps to ensure that those people never find a way to cause us harm again although as I continue to walk this path, I see the futility of even holding a belief that we will never be hurt. But some individuals should be kept at a distance and their ability to inflict harm on you minimized. Sometimes we may even need to take serious steps, particularly if they have broken the law or transgressed some deep moral code, but there is still a way to begin to find forgiveness in the heart, and I believe that generosity is what holds the key. At times, in my mind I have even offered the gravest of abusers in my life a generous gift, just to see how it transforms the contractions and tightness around my heart. Often it actually brings up the hurt, so that it can be felt, to be expressed and in so doing the heart is then free to love again. Once the heart lets go the path is clear to take whatever steps are necessary to set boundaries, maybe to put things right, or more importantly to see how this feeds into the 'stories' of our lives. This is where the real work is.
Seeing the bigger picture
If we could really see the nature of things would we be so caught? Would we be so angry, so hurt? It’s just not possible, the whole game lifts itself off the paper of life so that we can see more clearly the story that it is trying to tell us. With this comes responsibility, of owning ones actions in placing ourselves time and time again in situations of harm or ‘to do’ harm. This is reality, seeing things as they are rather than sitting in our comfortable bubble believing that everybody and everything is perfect in this life. Sadly, it also often means that we see the behaviour and actions of others and so we also need to give the responsibility of those back to them. Someone else's ignorance is not an excuse for being the recipient of abuse over and over again.
The fact is that the whole point of life is to reduce and mitigate harm and suffering, not to increase it. If anything (or anyone) does increase it, we might have to ask whether it is doing what it is meant to be doing in the first place. To see the real causes of suffering is really the only true aim in life, and the gaining of the wisdom needed to be able to bring suffering to its ultimate end.
When generosity is cultivated, unbinding occurs, when unbinding occurs the heart is freed, and when the heart is freed the causes of nature can be seen and wisdom is the liberating result. Here, all anger, greed and disillusionment cease and instead the heart is inclined over and again in the direction of peace.