Someone else’s bad behavior is never justification for my own.
While we as human beings are hardwired for defense and for retaliation we are also cosmically destined to rise above and respond beyond those primitive automatic reactions.
I don’t recall the last time I had to defend myself against a physical attack. It was most likely forty years ago. It has not been nearly that long since I went into a defensive posture because someone didn’t agree with me or because I was personally offended at something someone said or did. It could even be the look I am seeing or perceiving on someone’s face. Perhaps it is the tone of someone’s voice, or the perceived slight of not being acknowledged properly when I entered a room. I feel the mechanics click into gear, and a dividing wall sliding into place. I readjust my armor, and I am girded and ready to defend in a battle that isn’t even really happening, except upon the battleground of my own reptilian brain.
And so I recoil, I withdraw, and I start to spin the tale of the justified retaliation. As a person of so called non-violence it will most likely be some version of the silent treatment. You know, the attitudinal deep freeze. Far “too spiritual” to ever apply a full and frontal attack I will register my displeasure with an icy look and an edgy tone. I will throw virtual daggers and perceptual spears. And I will do it because of what you did. It is a justified reaction to your bad behavior. I am right in reacting thusly to your wrong. You deserve it and here it comes.
And yet, someone else’s bad behavior is never justification for my own.
Though I am hardwired for defense and retaliation I no longer have to choose to employ them. They were strategies I used until I learned to do know and to do better. After years of prayer, meditation, and spiritual-emotional practice there is now space between the reptilian reaction inside and the automatic expression of those impulses. There are still instances when I feel slighted, offended, confronted, and disrespected. Spiritual practice doesn’t kill brain cells. There is, however, a clear gap between the internal reaction and the outer response. I now know that whatever may be coming at me isn’t a license for me to come from the baser levels of human reaction. I have choice. I now have a choice.
I cannot choose what you are going to say or do. I am not here to control you or others, though I tried for decades to do just that. My consciousness and my way of being are of primary importance to me. The staying true to my chosen values, regardless of what anyone else is choosing, is how I am evolving and growing into more of what I am meant to be. If I justify my unskillfulness and my reactive bad behavior I in fact become less. I revert to lizard-like automatic reactivity. I can blame you for that but it only serves to reinforce the parts of me that I am meant to move beyond.
Though it is not much evident in our current culture we are meant to evolve beyond the eye for an eye mentality. While it is never appropriate to stay in an abusive situation people are terminating long-term relationships over a single and simple disagreement. I am the first one to affirm and honor healthy boundaries. And that doesn’t mean for me putting people out of my heart because we do not share a common ideology. There are times when a break in direct connection is perfectly appropriate. I have done it. But I do it from a centered place of clarity and not from a place of disturbed reactivity.
I wholeheartedly seek to release retaliation from my personal repertoire of how I respond in life and in relationships. I quickly deal with resentments, and I warm up as readily as possible when I find myself tempted to deep freeze. I really am not doing so for some noble or altruistic reason. I am doing so because to stay in defense, retaliation, unforgiveness, and reactivity is just too heavy a burden for me to bear. It is too contrary to what I know I am meant to be and to how I know I am meant to respond and relate.
So your bad behavior, real or just perceived, is ultimately just a chance for me to be more of what I truly am.