Cultivating healthy relationships: How to make peace instead of retaliate

When somebody harms us our first reaction is to retaliate.  We usually do this out of anger, with the wish to get the person back or teach them a lesson not to do this to us again in the future.  But in general, retaliation only makes the situation worse.  To understand this we need to examine who really benefits and who is really harmed when someone acts towards us in a way that would normally harm us.  If we check, we realize we actually benefit.  We have now paid off a long-standing karmic debt.  If we practice patience, our inner qualities are improved.  The other person loses – they create the causes to experience suffering in the future, and were miserable in the experience because they got angry.  It was our fault they did what they did to us anyway, since we created the cause for them to do it to us.  So actually it is we who should feel sorry towards the other person.

But non-retaliation does not mean that we become everyone’s favourite doormat, or that there aren’t circumstances where we need to be firm.  Here we make a distinction between wrathful actions and angry actions.  Anger is necessarily an uncontrolled deluded mind, whereas wrathful actions are engaged in with total control, knowing exactly what we are doing.  Anger is necessarily motivated by self-cherishing, whereas wrathful actions are necessarily motivated by compassion and the wish to help the other person.  We need to be honest with ourselves and check if it is sincerely for the sake of the other person that we are wrathful with them or are we just using Dharma to rationalize the conclusions of our self-cherishing and angry mind.  Anger is directed towards the another person, whereas wrathful actions are necessarily directed towards delusions.  Anger is directed towards anyone who harms us, whereas wrathful actions are generally directed towards those who have sufficient faith in us.  So we need to check how much faith the person has in us.  Anger is necessarily a reckless action, whereas wrathful actions require tremendous skill.  In general, they almost always backfire unless you have extreme skill.

How to resolve conflicts with others

What follows is some step-by-step advice we can follow for resolving conflicts with others:

  1. Face up to your own mistakes and faults.  The first step is admitting that you have done something wrong.  Normally we blame the other person for all conflicts, and then we come up with a million reasons justifying why we are faultless and they are to blame.  This just causes things to degenerate into a blame game, increasing defensiveness and the problems.  It is totally useless to do this because it leaves the solution to the problem in the court of the other person.  It is much better to take the responsibility all into our court, so that the solution is all in our court.  It is particularly useful to look at ourself from the perspective of the other person.  Try see yourself the way the other person sees you.  This will help you identify where you have made mistakes and will make your facing up to your faults more effective with the other person.  The key to wisdom is being able to view the world from the perspective of others.  By facing up to your own faults, and apologizing for what you have done wrong creates the space for the other person to do the same.  The key here is you need to be sincere.  It doesn’t work to just say, ‘it was all me’, when you don’t really believe that.  The key here is not to expect anything in return.  We can get mighty upset when we apologize for what we did wrong, and then the other person doesn’t reciprocate.  We should do the right thing, regardless of what the other person does.
  2. We need to relate to the other person’s pure intentions.  Nobody is evil in their own mind, even Stalin, Hitler, and Osama Bin Laden thought they were good.  So you need to put yourself into the mind of the other person and understand what their good intentions are, and relate to that.  A good example is those family members who care so much about you that they smother and control you because they cannot stand to see you suffer.  Of course, their controlling behaviour makes things worse, but it is coming from a good place.  Likewise, we all know people who want all the right things but they use all the wrong means to attain them.  By relating to the person’s pure potential, it functions to draw it out, and shows them that you understand their position.
  3. Start first by establishing common ground.  When we are in a conflict we tend to focus so much on the differences that we lose sight of the much more significant commonalities.  In most conflict situations, it is inappropriate attention to focus on the minor differences and neglect the vast swaths of commonality.  It is from the space of common ground that differences can be resolved.
  4. In working through the differences try the following approach:  For those issues which are not important, or you are wrong, graciously practice accepting defeat and offering the victory.  There are so many things that we fight for that are really irrelevant.  For those issues that are important and that there are differences on, stand your ground without getting angry and clarify your intention.

These steps will help lay the groundwork for de-escalating the conflict in your life.  The other person will see you are trying to make things better and you are trying to act constructively.  It is much harder to act unreasonably in response to somebody who is being reasonable and constructive.  This helps not only you, but it also helps them.

Finally, if we want to eliminate even the possibility of being harmed, we need to surrender our lives and our karma completely to our Dharma protector Dorje Shugden.  We get angry because we wish things were different than they are.  When we rely on Dorje Shugden, everything is perfect for our swiftest possible enlightenment.  The situation may be uncomfortable and even painful, but we will know it is good for us.  We will know it is by working through this emotional challenge that we will grow spiritually and move closer to enlightenment.  We will gain the realizations we need to help others in the future who are suffering from similar problems.  In short, our difficulties will have a clear spiritual purpose.  If we genuinely feel that things are indeed “perfect”, then there is no basis for us wishing things were different than they are.  Therefore, there will be no basis for an angry response to arise in our mind when we are harmed.  Conflict may still occur, but we will not experience that conflict as a problem.  Through our not adding fuel to the fires of anger in the world, gradually the relationships around us will become increasingly harmonious, peaceful and rewarding.

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