When you throw a stone into the ocean, you never know how deep down it goes. Same with your words, be careful with what you say, as something which may be a joke to you, may be a very serious matter for someone else. You can never tell how your words affect others. Something which seems like a small matter to you, may weight heavy on another's heart. Always be kind.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you said something as a joke, only to have the other person burst out in tears instead of laugh? Or maybe you gave a sarcastic comment meant as a joke, yet the other person reacted in anger?
Yep. Human communication is a pretty tricky thing sometimes. What we say and do can oftentimes be misinterpreted by others, and vice versa. Everyone is operating at their own level of perception. In other words, everybody has special glasses on. However they view the world depends on how they see it, through their glasses. So if you put a white rose in front of them, if they have glasses with red lenses on, guess what colour that rose is going to look like to them? Exactly.
So what to do?
I think it's always better to err on the side of caution than to risk offending or hurting someone else. True, you are not responsible for how others interpret your words, but at the same time that does not relieve you of your responsibilities of being a decent human being. It does not mean you can go around calling other people derogatory names and whatnot.
When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't.
- Louis C.K -
To me, bravery comes when you accept full responsibility for your share of what you put out there. Are you a parrot? Or a voice-recording machine, mindlessly blabbing out sounds? You can't go around treating others badly under the guise of 'self-expression' & being true to yourself.
Actually, it matters more when it is your self-expression. Now this is where the work begins.
A heckuva lot of awareness is needed here, even in these seemingly unimportant parts of life. To a yogi, there is never nothing happening in every moment; if you are receptive enough, there is always something happening in every moment. The little things in life add up to become the big things in life.
Are you saying the things you say, using the words you use, to sincerely get your point across, and to have a constructive conversation? Or are you doing so with intention to hurt another?
It takes a lot of awareness to conduct your interactions pleasantly. & have you ever noticed how difficult it is to be aware of yourself when you are emotionally fucked up? When you are angry, what kind of words escape your mouth, as compared to when you are happy? Sometimes when you're angry, even an innocent bystander can be a victim to your foul mood. Have you noticed it? How your mood & subsequently the world & your interactions change? You just feel like lashing out on anyone & anything, you are so embroiled in your emotions that it is overflowing out of you.
I really like this teaching by Osho: Society Never Teaches You To Be Watchful.
Expression is definitely necessary, but you need to be conscious of how you are expressing yourself.
I especially like this paragraph:
But there is no need to express on somebody else because the ‘somebody else’ is just irrelevant. Next time you feel angry go and run around the house seven times, and after it sit under a tree and watch where the anger has gone. You have not repressed it, you have not controlled it, you have not thrown it on somebody else – because if you throw it on somebody else a chain is created, because the other is as foolish as you, as unconscious as you. If you throw it on another, and if the other is an enlightened person, there will be no trouble; he will help you to throw and release it and go through a catharsis. But the other is as ignorant as you – if you throw anger on him he will react. He will throw more anger on you, he is repressed as much as you are. Then there comes a chain: you throw on him, he throws on you, and you both become enemies.
Don't throw it on anybody. It is the same as when you feel like vomiting: you don’t go and vomit on somebody. Anger needs a vomit. You go to the bathroom and vomit! It cleanses the whole body – if you suppress the vomit it will be dangerous, and when you have vomited you will feel fresh, you will feel unburdened, unloaded, good, healthy. Something was wrong in the food that you took and the body rejects it. Don’t go on forcing it inside.
Anger is just a mental vomit. Something is wrong that you have taken in and your whole psychic being wants to throw it out, but there is no need to throw it out on somebody.Bahahahahah! How true! On the other end, when we are on the receiving end of anger, it takes a conscious person to end the cycle. Someone who does not understand what the other person is going through, who does not understand the 'glasses' concept, will surely take things personally & react with the same amount of anger! Then what use is this anger which is going back & forth?
When there is shit within, you can only give shit to others.
But when there is love within, you can only give out love to others.
So it isn't completely our fault if someone interacts badly with us. Here is Thich Nhat Hanh's teaching about anger in our interactions: Loosening The Knots Of Anger.
We can also support others with our mindfulness when they are in difficulty. When our child is drowning in a strong emotion, we can hold his or her hand and say, “My dear one, breathe. Breathe in and out with mommy, with daddy.” We can also invite our child to do walking meditation with us, gently taking her hand and helping her calm down, with each step. When you give your child some of your mindfulness energy, she will be able to calm down very quickly and embrace her emotions.
A note of caution though: this does not mean that you have to go on accepting bad behaviour in the name of 'compassion'. You are not obliged to be anybody's punching bag. You can help them with some of their shit, but at the end of the day it is up to them to change. Or else it's like a never-ending vomit factory...bahahahahah!
Now here's where everything comes full circle. Another part of awareness requires you to introspect on your emotions. Your feelings towards others merely reflect the quality of your own glasses. Impatience with others only means impatience with yourself. Anger towards the behaviour of others - what quality of that other person angers you? That quality that angers you is what you are not happy with in yourself.
So many levels of awareness needed, huh?
What are your interactions with the world reflecting back to you?