Do we live in a friendly world? An honest answer to that would be yes and no, we all want this world to be caring, friendly and fair but we often end up feeling disappointed.
Why is it so? Why can’t people be fair and friendly?
Wise people tell us that this world is like a hall of mirrors; you smile and every image around you smiles at you. You get angry and shout at the images and you see all the images getting angry and shouting at you. It is what you put out that comes back to you. However, things don’t seem to be that straightforward when dealing with human beings.
That would be applicable if the other person has understood your intentions and the nature of your actions properly and immediately, and they also have the capacity to respond in an appropriate manner. If that is not so, the example of the hall of mirrors won’t be accurate, because the images smile back at you instantaneously, whereas when it comes to human being there is a time lag and even then the results are not 100 percent guaranteed. I don’t mean to imply that the philosophy behind the hall of mirrors example is wrong.
Did Jesus, Socrates and Galileo get what they had put out in the outside world, definitely not. The response from Jesus to that, one can infer from his teachings, would be that your rewards may not be available to you in this world and also not in the material form. That is what most religions tell us in order to explain the unfairness in this world ,when we see righteous and innocent people being subjected to enormous persecution and suffering. And those who are not religious minded just accept that life is not fair, it’s full of uncertainties and we all are subject to chance and life doesn’t make sense, without digging deeper in order to find out why.
In spite of this knowledge there is a deep-seated desire in us to see fairness to ourselves and to others. We get irritated and feel hurt when we see people cheating us. It is difficult to remain equanimous in the face of injustice. Wanting to see justice and fairness will only make us stressed out; and tolerating injustice will also make us stressed.
Is there a way out?
One can choose to be fair to others in one’s dealings but there is no guarantee that the other person will be fair to you. At times you can’t make them see unfairness in spite of you best efforts.
How to insulate ourselves from hurt:
• Love can insulate us from hurt, Ramakrishna, an Indian spiritual leader, gave an example of cutting a jackfruit in dealing with other human beings. He said when you cut a jackfruit with a knife in your bare hands the milky stuff that comes out can be very sticky and it’s very difficult to get rid of it once it catches the skin of your hands. In order to prevent that happening the advice to follow is to first put oil on our hands and the oil will then prevent the sticky milk getting to our fingers. In the same way if we can insulate ourselves with love for other human beings that will stop us from the hurt. However, that may not stop the other person from acting unfairly and it’s not easy to keep the switch of love on all the time, unless you are a saint.
• The words of the Buddha in “Majjhima Nikāya” may be relevant here:-
o Others will be cruel, I will be kind thus I will incline my heart.
o Others will be greedy, I will be generous thus I will incline my heart.
o Others will speak falsehood, I will speak truth thus I will incline my heart.
o Others will be envious, I will be appreciative thus I will incline my heart.
o Others will be fraudulent, I will be honest thus I will incline my heart.
o Others will be arrogant, I will be open-minded thus I will incline my heart.
o Others will be harsh, I will establish compassion thus I will incline my heart.
o Others may lack wisdom, I will see what is wise and live with it thus I will incline my heart.
• Expect people to be unreasonable so you are mentally prepared and don’t get shocked every now and then unexpectedly. On the surface it may appear that compared to an honest person it may be easier for a dishonest person to deal with a dishonest person because the honest person will get hurt more in their dealing with a dishonest person.
An honest person’s expectations of honesty would be much greater compared to that of a dishonest person. Secondly, it may be that a dishonest person will be more forgiving of another dishonest person and can handle the situation better. However, it may be difficult for a dishonest person to bring another dishonest person to the path of honesty, thereby making the whole exercise futile. Gandhi, being one of the most truthful and honest man, used to say it’s very difficult for people to live with me or associate with me. Perhaps because he would expect a degree of honesty from others that they were not yet ready to practise.
• When dealing with others imagine how you will react to the other person if they were your friends or relatives. This may not apply and can’t be practised in many settings, but having the thought can be helpful in certain situations.
• Windfalls can take care of unexpected losses: Please put aside any extra money that you get unexpectedly from any source in a separate savings account, and use it to pay for only the expected losses you have incurred. You may find that both these cancel each other out to a great extent. Once you know that you will see your unexpected losses in a different light. When your property value appreciates you are just happy and when its market value goes down you are acutely unhappy. The proportion of unhappiness is greater than happiness.
• A penny earned is a penny saved, it is just the opposite of the conventional wisdom handed down to us through generations that is – A penny saved is a penny earned. Perhaps in certain situations, the effort and stress involved in earning a penny was more than that required to save it, and it made sense. However, for some the effort required to earn extra money would be less than the stress caused in trying to save money. So, it makes sense to work a bit extra, and the bucks you earn from there can go into the savings account discussed earlier which can be used to pay for any unexpected expenses/losses or for unreasonable demands from unhappy people who are desperately trying to make a few extra bucks by overcharging you.
• Zooming out of the current situation can be helpful. You are feeling hurt because you have been ripped off, and if your wisdom tells you not to react, so you zoom out into the past when similar things had happened and they don’t bother you now, and this hurt will be gone in future, can help.
• Seeing one’s all current dealings as a dream can help us not react emotionally to them, just as the past happenings have become a dream now.
© Kishore Chandiramani, Consultant Psychiatrist
Emotions Clinic, Education and Training Centre Cic, Staffordshire, England
Image courtesy: https://designresumes.com/should-you-insulate-yourself-from-the-world/