Equal and Opposite
Below is an essay from my new book that I wanted to put out in the world a little early. Enjoy!
I just had somebody come to my door wanting to talk about the bible. I’m assuming he was from one of the many religions that goes out and tries to convert people. Here’s why I’m sharing this with you.
I grew up Roman Catholic and I dropped that religion almost 30 years ago now. It didn’t offer me a way forward. It didn’t offer me a way to heal myself It didn’t offer hope. It offered fear that I screw up and end up in hell; that I would be punished for simply being human and doing the best that I could do at the time.
When I dropped religion, I didn’t really touch it for almost 20 years. I didn’t consider picking up a new religion. I didn’t really think about what my religion had offered me or what I was looking for in terms of religion. I still believed in God. I still believed in a higher power. I still believed that I had a soul or spirit within me. I still had some fundamental ideas that stayed with me, but a lot of the religious fear I had been taught was dropped.
When I picked up spirituality I did so from a Google search. At the time it just made sense because it offered me the power to make choices. It offered me the power to understand myself. It offered the possibility that clarity and truth were actually available to me if I dealt with the pain that was in my way. Over time, I used some of those spiritual principles I came across to heal and understand myself in a way that my old religion never offered me.
It used to be that when people would come to the door and offer me a discussion about the Bible or religion in general, I didn’t have the power to have those discussions fairly. I was too defensive and guarded to be able to have a conversation like that. What I realized is that this man that had come to my door was looking for people that were vulnerable. If he could get them to question their own beliefs or realize they didn’t know what they believed, then there was an opening there for him to try to offer them his religion, his belief system, his idea of what life should look like.
I’m too strong in my beliefs now for him to sway me. I have a plan and a way forward. I’ve done my work on myself. I know what I believe because I’ve had to question all of it as part of my journey. He just doesn’t know that and so he tries anyway.
I don’t judge what he does. I have no need to be disrespectful to him. I don’t have a need to be mean to him. He is doing what he believes is right. He is doing what he thinks he needs to do to fulfill the obligations in his own faith. Who am I to argue with that?
When you run across a telemarketer, somebody like the man that appeared at my door today, or anybody doing a job that you don’t like or don’t agree with, how do you treat them? When you run across somebody with a different opinion from your own, how do you treat them? Are you able to be respectful? Are you able to play nice?
One of the biggest problems we have in our society right now is our inability to be respectful of differing opinions. We have entrenched ourselves in our specific viewpoints and anybody that doesn’t believe that is an idiot, a moron, dumb, or otherwise unworthy of basic human respect. This behavior is what will cause us to destroy ourselves. This behavior is what creates civil war. The extreme of we’re doing right now results in street fights and civil war. It results in violent clashes. It’s already started as people grab the nearest gun and start shooting up the people and places that represent the viewpoints they disagree with.
Just like the man going door to door trying to convert people to his way of being in the world, so too are we trying to convert each other to our way of being in the world, with or without the religious context that was offered to me today. In order for the conversion to work a person has to be in doubt within themselves. They have to be vulnerable to questioning. They have to perceive their lack of understanding as a problem. They have to perceive that the person in front of them is offering them a solution to the problem and a way forward that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
If we can engage in a debate with the right person and they aren’t sure in their own ideas and beliefs, the conversion process works. But for the rest, it’s simply an argument that goes no where fast. It doesn’t work. The problem is that it creates anger and defensiveness, like I used to do. We get mad at the other person for challenging our beliefs. We start to believe that we are the beliefs that we hold. I know for sure I’m not my beliefs because I’ve questioned every single one of them over the years and many of them have changed in that time. If I were my beliefs I would have ceased to exist, my physical form would have vanished, but it did not. It is still here. I am still here.
Why do we get angry? Why do we move to insults and violence? Why do we judge? Why can’t we just let other people have their viewpoints? Why can’t we just leave each other alone? Where did the disrespect come from?
The ego identifies with the beliefs it holds. The ego takes them on as being part of itself and then when those beliefs are questioned, the ego sees that as a judgment of itself as being wrong in some way. This makes the ego quickly jump to defend itself from the judgment it feels is being offered.
The ego’s job in life is to defend and protect the human form. It has some strategies that it learns early on to do that. Most of those strategies aren’t particularly helpful because they often result in fighting, anger, defensiveness, and pain. Why? Because the people that taught us those strategies didn’t have better ones to offer. There is an innate sense of protection and defense built into the ego. It spends time early on trying to figure out how to achieve the goal of protection it thinks it has. Because many of the strategies we learn are built on pain, we continue to create pain for ourselves throughout our lives. Pain creates pain.
Disrespect shows up when we feel judged because we see the judgment as disrespectful and then we want to defend ourselves from it. Often this just results in a snowball fight, with insults being thrown back and forth, sometimes violently. This creates an interesting conundrum. On the one hand we’re very quick to judge each other but on the other we don’t like to be judged. We’re totally okay with judging somebody else’s viewpoint or way of being as wrong or bad, but the minute that is turned on us we have a problem with it. We don’t like the things that we put out in the world coming back to us. We tend to get a little snarky when that happens.
Self-awareness is the answer to the problem. You have to be aware of what you put out in the world and then you have to be aware of when the world reflects it back to you. If you don’t like the reflection you get back, then it’s probably time to change what you put out. That’s not easy because the argument is very simply that I am right and therefore I am entitled to judge you as wrong or bad. Your ego offers you the idea of moral high ground and you take your throne quite willingly. From the throne you think you have, you then spew judgment and pain all over the place, while getting upset when anybody tosses it back to you.
Can you see the ego all over this? Can you get your ego out of the way long enough to see yourself in it? Can you find the spots where you do this yourself? Crunchy isn’t it? Why is it crunchy? Because the ego doesn’t like to realize that its wrong. It wants to defend that opinion regardless of how deep the hole becomes while it’s defending that opinion. This is why we get entrenched. This is why we get violent. This is why we lose respect for each other. This is why we have a problem. We can’t get to where we think we want to go acting like this.
Where do we want to go? We want to convert the other side. We want to make the other side see it our way. We want to eradicate the things we think are bad or evil. We want to do as the man at my door tried to do to me; convert each other to our way of being in the world. While you may have limited success with certain people who are vulnerable at the time, you will struggle with converting the majority because they have ideas and beliefs they are attached to. You will not be able to change those.
The solution? Stop trying to convert people. Stop trying to change each other. Stop judging each other. Stop arguing with each other. Here’s the ego again because we can’t just leave well enough alone. They are doing bad things and we have to stop them. We can’t stand by and watch bad things happen. The unfortunate part is that every time you try to stop something you perceive as bad, more bad things happen. Pain creates pain. Your painful need to stop or change others creates more pain.
The need to change others is a projection of pain. The need to convert others is a projection of pain. There is fear in the man that appeared at my door today. He is afraid of what happens if he doesn’t do what he’s doing. That is pain. He takes that pain with him, he spreads it around, and he looks for vulnerable people that are willing to pick up that pain and suffer with him. Like attracts like.
Now you tell me that you can’t give up; that you can’t lay down your sword and you have a cause to fight for. You have to fight injustice. You have to fight the pain. You have to fight for your freedom or democracy or your religion or anything else that you see as being judged or persecuted in some way. That’s all pain. It’s all fear. It’s fear of what happens if I don’t react a certain way or fight for the cause. It’s fear that the other side will win or take over. It’s fear that I’ll lose the thing I’m trying so desperately to hang onto. It’s fear that you’ll take it away from me.
The irony is that you’ve already lost something – your power to be okay and not be afraid. The pain took over and you picked up a cause that you started fighting for. Fear got the best of you. You let it. You did it willingly because the ego told you a story about what happens if you lose the proverbial fight and now you’re afraid of that outcome. You can’t stop. You’re willing to walk on whoever shows up in order to continue the fight. You’re willing to be disrespectful. You’re willing to throw your pain around. You’re willing to argue. You’re willing to fight. You’re willing to fight a losing battle.
You can’t convert the other side. You can’t change them. You don’t have control over them. They aren’t listening to you anymore than you’re listening to them. They are equally judgmental. They are equally in pain. They are equally afraid. They are equally motivated by that fear. They are equally unwilling to give up the fight. They are equal in their belief that you are wrong.
You stand and you stare at your own reflection, unwilling to see that your pain, your fear, and your anger is being reflected right back to you in an equal yet opposite way. You don’t see that, instead you allow your ego to defend you. You allow your ego to offer you the throne of moral high ground and you take that throne happily because you believe that the throne is how you will defeat the other side, not realizing they have their own throne of equal yet opposite power.
When you stop; when you lay down your sword; when you simply walk away from the fight, nothing happens. Just like the man this morning simply moved onto the next house and the next person, so too will the other side move on from their fight. When there is nobody to play with the game stops. Guess what? If you take your ball and go home, the game will stop. When you refuse the argument; when you refuse to judge; when you refuse to be disrespectful; when you refuse to play the game, the game simply stops. Your fear of them winning or you losing is an ego story that you made up to give yourself the motivation to fight and play the game.
What will actually happen? Everybody will just go live their lives. Everybody will just go do their thing. People will stop forcing things on each other. The violence will stop. The disrespect will stop. The hate will stop. The pain will stop. The whole thing will come to a halt because nobody is playing the game anymore. It’s okay to put down the sword. You don’t have to play the game. Drop the cause.
It’s like a giant game of chicken. You keep waiting to see who will blink first. You tell me that if you stop fighting they will take away your rights. I hate to break it to you, but that’s happening anyway. The fighting isn’t changing that, it’s actually making it worse. Do you want to know when they will stop taking away your rights? When they stop feeling like theirs are being taken away from them. That’s why you have to stop playing the game. When they no longer feel threatened, they will stop threatening.
You mean we just need to accept what they are doing even though we think it’s wrong? Yes.
You mean I’m supposed to let bad things happen? Yes.
You mean I’m not supposed to defend myself or others? Yes.
When there is no longer a reaction, they will stop doing those things because it’s no longer gaining attention. The game no longer has value. The value comes in the reaction of others. The value comes in the attention you garner from doing the thing. If you take the attention away doing the thing suddenly has no value. The baseball game stops being interesting when there is no batter to hit the ball back out into the field. Stop hitting the pain back and the pain will stop being thrown.
You don’t like this do you? I get it. It’s not an easy place to come to. You want to argue with me. You’re ready to hit unfollow and send me a nasty email. You’re ready to message me and tell me how crazy I am. You’re ready to call me names and defend yourself. You’re ready to do everything we’ve been talking about because the ego need to defend makes you want to take the moral high ground to prove yourself right. Your need to be right makes you want to convert me to your way of being and to do that you need to be disrespectful to me because you think that if you take your respect of me as a human being, it will somehow make me change. That lie keeps you in a loop while I go off and live my life unconcerned about whether or not you think I’m right or deserve respect.
Why? Because I’m not here to be right. I don’t need to defend myself. You’re free to have your own opinion. I don’t need you to agree with me. Just like you, I’m allowed to offer my opinion. What’s the difference between you and I? I put it in a book and I don’t hold you down and make you read it. I don’t care if you read it or not. I’m not here to convert you. I’m here to show you the mirror you keep staring down and trying to destroy. I’m here to tell you that you can’t destroy the mirror.
We live in a dual Universe where everything has an equal and an opposite. You can’t change that. You can’t break that. Your attempts to change it or break it are futile because it’s an attempt to change the nature of the Universe and none of us have that much power. That means we need to learn to live with the equal and opposite. The best way to do that is to stop fighting against it. When you come to a stop sign and you can choose to go left or right, you don’t get mad at the direction you’re not taking. Left and right are equal and opposite just like good and bad. When you go left you don’t get mad at having the option to go right. The reverse is also true. The equal and the opposite co-exist and you don’t try to make them argue with each other. The same is true with hot and cold, up and down, back and forth, wet and dry, and many others. You don’t argue with the existence of the equal and opposite in those cases.
You do argue with the existence of good and bad or right and wrong. You keep trying to eradicate the other and it simply doesn’t work. All I’m offering you is the idea that you can’t eradicate the other in a Universe based on duality. Both have to be able to co-exist peacefully just like left and right, hot and cold, up and down, or back and forth. It is possible when you put down your sword and stop playing the game.
I don’t have to like what you’re doing to allow you to do it. I don’t have to agree with what you’re doing to allow you to do it. I can allow the man to continue trying to convert people, regardless of what I think of the strategy. I don’t need to be disrespectful to him. I don’t need to argue with him. I don’t need to make myself right. I don’t need to join him. I can allow him to do what he’s doing and I can continue to live my life. Both can co-exist peacefully. The same is true with absolutely everything else that is happening around me – everything. I can allow it all to co-exist without needing to change any of it, even the things that I perceive are happening to me or that I think are wrong.
Your focus matters. How you see it matters. What you do with it within yourself matters. When things happen to you in life you have a choice in that moment of what to do with them. The immediate reaction may be pain and that’s okay; feel the pain and allow the pain but then make a choice to shift your focus.
The pain just is. Don’t identify with it. Don’t hang onto it. Don’t make up stories about it. Just let it be there.
The experience just is. Don’t identify with it. Don’t hang onto it. Don’t make up stories about it. Just let it be there.
Your opinion of it just is. Don’t identify with it. Don’t hang onto it. Don’t make up stories about it. Just let it be there.
Notice a pattern?
Don’t focus on, hold onto, make up stories about, or identify with anything that causes you pain or that you don’t like. Just allow it all to be there and peacefully co-exist with you. You don’t have to do anything about any of it. There is nothing to fix. It’s not broken. It is only the equal and the opposite that is being reflected back to you. Allow it to be there. You can’t get rid of it and trying to do so only upsets you and solves nothing.
The ego likes an argument and the mind likes a problem to solve. The equal and opposite will always provide those distractions. They always give the mind and the ego something to do, but your job is to change that. You can control your focus. You can shift your thinking. You don’t have to get stuck in the problems.
Your focus on the problems happens because you’re afraid of the outcome if you don’t focus there. The truth is that nothing happens. The teeter totter doesn’t flip over because the other side has nothing on it. If there are two people on the teeter totter and the one at the bottom gets off, what happens? The other side hits the ground. That’s it. The teeter totter doesn’t fly away. It’s not tragic. The other side simply hits the ground with a thud. The end. The same is true in life. If you simply stop fighting nothing happens. The other side just doesn’t have anything to argue with anymore. Eventually those problems just stop being a distraction. They stop being the focus. They stop getting your attention. The teeter gets abandoned because one person on a teeter totter is no fun. Balance will happen naturally.
The teeter totter isn’t broken because there is nobody on it. The teeter totter isn’t broken because somebody got off and the other side hit the ground. The teeter totter is working as expected. Funnily enough, life does exactly the same thing. It works as expected when left to simply happen; when we stop arguing with it and trying to control it the balance is naturally created.
The equal and the opposite will continue to exist regardless of your opinion of them. You won’t be able to change that. The problems will continue to be there. You are human and so you will continue to not like things and find things to have opinions about. All of that is okay because that is part of the human experience. It is simply what we do with it that matters. Using it as a weapon against other people and the things we don’t like only upsets the natural balance that is ever-present in our world. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as we try to make it. It’s only a problem because you decided it was. That’s it. You don’t have to like it but you do have to allow it to be there because you can’t take it out of existence and you don’t have control over it. It just is. Just like you are. Both of you are entitled to be present.
Love to all.