By Suma Varughese
If we can recognize that everyone has a story which leads them to behave in hurtful ways, we will be less inclined to judge and crucify them
It is one of the most poignant of all events that we, who are essentially pure and perfect souls, begin to believe over time that we are deeply faulty, limited, and sinful. I am firmly convinced that it is this fundamental mistaken identity that is responsible for all the evil in the world.
Drop by drop the impressions and beliefs we are fed by family, teachers, peers and others, and the conclusions we draw about ourselves based on the events that befall us, gradually overtake our sense of shining perfection and fill us with a perennial sense of anxiety and inadequacy, of wrongness. I myself have gone through almost all of life seeing myself as faulty in any number of areas – inefficient, forgetful, lazy, etc. Naturally, that is what showed up time and time again until it became a graven part of my identity – who I was.
It took an inner realisation to convince me that I was inherently whole, perfect and complete and the rest was conditioning.
The awareness that people are really only acting out false identities can at a deep level free us of the tendency to label people and to judge them. We also become increasingly aware that the behaviour they emanate is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole story out there which we are not privy to, and it moves the person about like a puppet on a string.
There was a time, not so long ago, when I used to explode with rage at people around me at the slightest provocation. I was always deeply remorseful later, but I knew that I could not have acted otherwise. I was so judgemental of my anger, so fearful of it arising that when it did, the internal pressure forced the anger to spew out. Constant work on loving and accepting myself has enabled me to give myself space to feel these emotions without necessarily taking them out on the other. But at that time, I could not have acted otherwise.
Similarly, most people cannot act in any way other than the way they do. We have no idea of the stories they believe about themselves, or the pressures they contend against. The tantrum-throwing child, for instance, is probably signalling for more attention and respect from its parents, and the sulky teenager is merely revealing her many fears and confusions about self-identity. The person with angry and hostile lines on his face is similarly documenting a lifetime of belief in their own unloveability. Everyone has a story and none of them are their true selves.
While accepting a person no matter who or what they are is a higher response, we need not and indeed are obliged not to accept their behaviour. Bad behaviour is bad behaviour no matter where it comes from. The difference is that if we operate from love of the person when we draw boundaries about behaviour, they are almost always likely to take it in the right spirit.
If we can learn to be kinder to each other, and to help each of us to work our way out of the bog of false identities, there is little else we need to make the world and ourselves happier.
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