This is an issue I hear constantly from “Spiritual People” and “New Agers.” When confronted with issues, many New Age publications and New Agers in general say “Well, I have to just be more gentle and forgiving with myself.” This is not only excrement from a very large male bovine creature, but a way that leads, sooner or later, to narcissism and even the Dark Side.
There are certainly people out there who are too hard on themselves. I’ve been told I’m one of them, though I do not know for a fact that I am. I know I have a great deal of growth still left to do before I become an ascended Master…a great deal. I believe that I must constantly critique each of my interactions with others and with the Universe to facilitate that growth. My Teachers normally do not feel I am “too hard on myself,” so, until one of them “dings” me on it (rather than giving me the old “boot to the head” routine), I’ll keep critiquing myself deeply and continue to grow. And, by the way, asking your friends about your Spiritual Path is just plain not bright. They will almost always tell you what you want to hear, and that you’re too hard on yourself. Most of mine do. This is why they’re friends, and why you need a Teacher…not just “Spiritual friends.” It is also why listening to your friends or seeking their “input” is one of the fastest ways to derail yourself from your Spiritual Path and begin to doubt your Teacher and his or her wisdom. (This is why we ask that the Path not be discussed with friends and family. It almost always derails true growth.)
While there are a very few who are “too hard on themselves and just need to be more gentle and forgiving of themselves,” there is a much larger group of people out there (the vast majority) who are just plain spiritually lazy. They do not want to overcome their issues, confront the ways in which they may have hurt others, or truly grow. It is to this group that this post is addressed. These folks need to gain Spiritual Maturity and a sense of perspective. You should assume that you are in this group.
Every emotion or feeling we have has a reason behind it. There is, in the cosmic woo-woo community, a belief that certain emotions have no value, such as guilt or shame. This allows cosmic woo-wooers to do anything and feel perfectly good about themselves.
In fact, both guilt and shame do have a very legitimate purpose. They let us know when we have crossed appropriate boundary lines and done harm to another person. If I punch someone in the nose, I should feel guilty about it and ashamed of myself! I’ve done violence to another human being.
But what happens in the cosmic woo-woo group is that they’ll say, “Don’t worry. If you’d known better, you would have done better. Forgive yourself and be gentle with yourself.” This is BS. What I need to do is apologize to the person I’ve just punched out and look at why I’ve been such an ass that I did violence to a fellow human being. But this is too much guilt for some people. They want an axe murderer to be more gentle and forgiving of himself (if it is them…they will often condemn others) as the head is falling to the ground.
The fact is that human beings do crappy things to one another. When I do something crappy to another person, I need to apologize (not a political apology, but a real one) and seek reconciliation. These are two separate steps. The first step is asking for (and hopefully receiving) forgiveness. The second step, which is not always possible, is seeing if the relationship that I’ve messed up can be repaired. The lack of ability to repair a relationship, even with someone who has forgiven me, is one of the natural consequences of our actions. This is what the cosmic woo-wooers don’t get. It is perfectly appropriate for someone to forgive me and wish me the highest and best, but not want to open themselves to me being a turkey with them anymore.
The lack of a mechanism of guilt in the cosmics means that they never have to apologize nor feel bad for the crappy things they’ve done. If someone is angry, it is always the other person’s problem, not theirs certainly. They will even dish up BS like “Well, if you choose to be angry….” The fact is that anger is also a valid emotion. It lets us know when someone has stepped on our toes, and gives us the impetus to push back a bit. Without this anger, we are likely to allow ourselves to be doormats, which is far from Spiritual.
Spirit wants us to value and respect all people, including ourselves. One of our measures should be how we would react to what we had just done to someone. It is possible that the other person is overly sensitive. If so, we still need to apologize for our thoughtlessness if it will keep harmony and peace between people. But usually, we are more “forgiving and gentle” with ourselves than we would be with others.
Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves. This statement recognizes a profound fact that most people have way too much self-love and not enough love for other people. It is better, I believe, to be a bit harder on yourself than you are on others for the simple fact that you probably aren’t actually harder on yourself than you are on others. It is the very rare person who actually is. We have a perception, however, that we’re very hard on ourselves. Realistically, though, we rarely stop speaking to ourselves, write ourselves nasty and demeaning notes, think about killing ourselves (except in self-pity), and so on. But most of us have thought about offing someone who has hurt us if we could be absolutely sure that no one but us would know who it was, and we’d know we’d never get caught. Most of us have written something nasty and demeaning to or about someone else. And lots of us have stopped speaking to others.
No, you don’t need to be “more gentle and forgiving” of yourself. What most people need is a dose of Spiritual Discipline and a service orientation, not more self-coddling. What we really need is to be honest with ourselves about our actions and how they effect others. Most of us need to take a good, hard look in the mirror. This is true Spirituality, instead of the cosmic woo-woo most “Spiritual People” are following.
We need to understand that we are truly interconnected in many ways. What we do to another we also do to ourselves. But because we are interconnected, we can truly hurt someone. It isn’t because they “chose” to be hurt. It is because we hurt them. This is something that the New Age weenies don’t want to own up to….but it is accurate.
If I take a gun and fire it at someone, they don’t “choose” to be wounded or killed, except in an ultimate metaphysical sense, perhaps. I have wounded or killed them. Their action is not usually what “caused” me to pull the trigger. We can get into an infinite regress that way.
True Spirituality not only takes responsibility for how we treat others, but radical responsibility for how we treat others. We will take very seriously the call to be peacemakers. Instead of being “forgiving and gentle” with ourselves we will look very closely at each of our actions that might have prompted the reaction which hurt us. We will look at why the other person who is claiming that hurt him or her feels hurt, and take radical responsibility for our actions that could have caused that hurt.
This doesn’t mean that we walk around in constant guilt and shame. It means that we seek to, as the 12 Steppers say, make amends to any our actions have harmed.
Addicts and cosmic woo-wooers have a lot in common. Both groups are irresponsible and rationalize the reactions of others to their inappropriate behavior as being the other person’s problem. Mature people, those who are advanced in addiction recovery and those who are walking a true Spiritual Path, regardless of what that Path is, have lots in common, too. They consistently seek to keep peace, make amends for those they hurt in any way, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
If you doubt my analysis, ask yourself this. Who would you rather have as a neighbor, friend or spouse? Someone who is “forgiving and gentle” with themselves, or someone who takes radical responsibility for his or her actions and seeks forgiveness and reconciliation when he or she has done something crappy?
“Being more forgiving and gentle with myself” is a cop-out, like so many other cop-outs in popular “Spirituality.” It is one more indication of the narcissism that pervades the “Spiritual movement.” It is very similar to the really stupid Christian bumper sticker which says “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It says the same thing. Both say “I can do anything I want to you, and I’m forgiven.” At least in the case of Christians, they must ask for forgiveness from God. Cosmic woo-wooers simply have to ask themselves to forgive themselves. Since they have the vanity that they are God, anyway, this is the same thing. What neither do is ask forgiveness of the one they have harmed. It seems to me that if I were God, and someone came and asked ME for forgiveness, I’d say, “Why are you asking me? Go take care of it with the person you’ve harmed.” This seems much more like true Spirituality than the other way around, doesn’t it?
Love, peace, joy and prosperity,