How can I shine a light in dark times? – a note on patience

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September 13, 2017 by Cláudia

You cannot hate, argue, reason, fight, complain or yell at a dark room enough to illuminate it. Only by shinning a light is darkness ever overcome. Be that light. Unknown

The biggest growth I have experienced (and still have a lot of room for improvement) is patience. I used to lash out easily, condemn, make judgments too soon and be skeptical that people can change. I have improved but I still do all of these things on a smaller scale. I want to talk about my flaws because I don’t want readers ever to think that I am this Zen master who is always tolerant and accepting of others – I am not. Whenever someone is saying something that I don’t agree with, something that I think is outdated, ignorant or offensive, I feel intense discomfort and sometimes rage.

What I believe is the right attitude and what I actually act like are two different things for now. I don’t always practice what I preach. But while I used to feel entitled to those behaviors (I used to feel like people shouldn’t express “stupid” opinions), now I absolutely am not. Inevitably, I looked back and realized I was wrong in many aspects, so I started realizing how hypocritical it was to act as if I was the owner of truth when even I disagreed with my past self. I realized that my anger was coming mostly from a place of lack of understanding – lack of understanding that each person has had different life experiences, upbringings, cultural backgrounds and simply different personality traits. Some people are more sensitive to certain subjects while others are more invested in others and this doesn’t mean some people are inherently better than others. On the contrary, only with the relationship with others, we can make up for our own shortcomings. Right now, I am battling myself not to bring my old attitude into conversations as I have a new understanding.

Another realization I’ve had is that if I bring an aggressive attitude to a discussion, people will react defensively and I am less likely to get my message across. No one wants to be made to feel like a bad person, or that they are not entitled to think the way they want to or live the way they want to. That’s why the quote at the beginning is so important and is being my inspiration to my change of attitude.

On the other hand, I think that when you care about a subject, you tend to have strong feelings towards it and therefore it can be hard to tolerate people who don’t care about it. In a way, to be completely tolerant and nonjudgmental towards everyone in every single situation, despite their beliefs or actions, denounces a certain apathy, a certain lack of inner values and beliefs. Caring will inevitably bring some internal or external conflicts. But it is one thing to debate ideas and another completely different to attack people for their ideas – an idea is just transitory, it will morph or completely change with time.

Because of all this, patience is crucial for coexisting in a society where everyone thinks something slightly (or radically) different from me. I want to incorporate patience a lot more. Just be more patient. Do not yell, insult nor get defensive. Be more understanding – understand that there is so much more to someone than what they say.

Educate, instead of judge. Show your beliefs in a positive way, not an accusatory or condemning way. Explain why you believe what you believe. I’ve figured that a lot of times it is better to show your ideas through your actions. For example, instead of making people feel heartless for eating animals, I try to instead show them how much happier I am now that I don’t have to constantly convince myself that it is necessary to eat animals. I can talk about my experience, what lead me here and what I’ve felt so far without pushing it to other people. In another sense, I can say that I’m trying to reduce plastic, I can show why and I can show what I have done to achieve it, without necessarily having to blame people for the environmental damage plastic causes. Respect everyone’s own path and rhythm. I am growing at my own rhythm as well.

Be patient with yourself and with others. Disengage when you need to. Forgive yourself if you were not as understanding as you wanted to be. Forgive others if they were not understanding either. I truly believe that a negative attitude can do more harm than good to your activism, whatever it is. I see how my attitude was harmful in the past, but now there is nothing to be done about that except to shine light in dark places. I want to be that light.

 

Note: I came across the quote at the beginning during one of Leslie Fightmaster’s online yoga classes. She ends all classes with beautiful inspiring quotes, in case you want to check her out.

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